April 2016 had been the most productive month for lotophotos. Here are some large format portraits done for my visitors this month.
First one is Joseph Wei, a drummer and music producer from Hong Kong. The photo is taken inside a studio (with multiple flashes) from Kodak 2d 8×10 camera + Fujinon 250mm f6.3 lens + Kodak B/RA x-ray film.
The second one is of Michael Ho taken with Graflex Speed Graphic + Kodak Aero Ektar 178mm f2.5 lens + Expired (1993) Kodak Plus-X Pan 4×5 film. The Kodak aero ektar lens is always my preferred lens for 4×5 portraits. I am also happy that the very expired plus-x film still very useable despite metering it at ISO 50 (instead of the stock 125).
The following one is of Richard Fung in deep thought. Also shot with Graflex Speed Graphic + Kodak Aero Ektar 178mm f2.5 lens + Expired (1993) Kodak Plus-X Pan 4×5 film.
My friend Pouya Ashtiani models for the next shot. He was enjoying the warm San Francisco weather in this photo shot from Graflex Speed Graphic + Kodak Aero Ektar 178mm f2.5 lens + Kodak Plus-X Pan film.
Graflex Speed Graphic + Kodak Aero Ektar 178mm f2.5 + Kodak Plus-X Pan film
The last set is from the lovely couple Marko Kudjerski and Yandra Lluch. These polaroids were taken from Graflex Speed Graphic + Kodak Aero Ektar 178mm f2.5 lens + one big 1000 LED panel as light source.
Here are the portraits taken from April 2016 and I hope the models are as happy with the images as I was!
Last summer, I had a tinype photo sitting with Nuno Marcelino in Lisbon, Portugal. It was an amazing time and he showed me all the ropes in producing a wet collodion tintype. This had been something that I wanted to do for a while but never got the chance to. I came across the Rockland Tintype Parlor kit a few months back and decided to give it a go before I dive into wet collodion.
The Rockland Tintype Parlor kit includes eight sheets of 4×5 tintype plates, 1 oz of Ag-plus emulsion, a bottle of reversal developer and a small pack of fixer powder. It’s a nice little kit for $35 and you pretty much have all you need to start making tintypes.
Next, you have to figure out how you are going to mount the tintypes in a film holder. I have done some research and the easiest way is to double-side tape the plate to a normal holder. Or you can cut it down and fit the custom ones sold by RayKo Photo Center in SF. I didn’t like the idea that you need to trim it down to 3.375″ x 4.375″. Why lose the extra 0.625″? I decided to make my own. The idea came when I was cleaning up some old 4×5 holders at home. I saw an old Graflex Graphic Packfilm adapter that I never use (since the film had been obsolete for decades). I opened it up and I thought it would be the perfect candidate to make my own “true” 4×5 tintype holder. Using foam core and black gaffers tape , I custom made the padding and holder that will fit inside this adapter. Everything was snug and I can see the tintype plate fits perfectly with the original mask.
Next, it’s coating the emulsion. I put the clear bottle of Ag-plus in warm water. I put my plates on the red light for preheating. I have a block of ice in tupperware and a hair dryer (that can blow cold air) for solidifying the emulsion and drying of the plates.
I waited for about 7-8 minutes and started to squeeze the Ag-plus out of the bottle. Chuck of it came out, oh no! I carefully put the chunks back in the bottle and back in the warm water bath. I waited for another 5 minutes and finally everything in the bottle liquefies. I pour a quarter size of Ag-plus onto plate and started to swirl it around. It just won’t move, so I started to spread it with my fingers. This is bad, uneven coating is just an understatement. I poured the excess in a black 135mm film can for later use. I then put this horribly looking plate onto the block of ice for about 3-4 minutes before blow drying it. Then I put this into my pre-made 4×5 holder to be laid flat and dried overnight.
By my 4th plate, I was getting better at this. I realized a couple of mistakes I made. First, I need to pour a lot of ag-plus (1/4 of the plate) on the plate before it can be coated by swirling it around (no fingers). The consistency of the Ag-plus is best described as white glue. It’s thick and not too easy to flow around the plate (unlike collodion). The second issue I had was the temperature of the plates itself. Heating it on the red safety light was not enough and it cooled down too quickly and the ag-plus solidify almost immediately from contact. Next time I will either hot blow dry the plates to temperature or setup an electric hot plate. Keeping the ag-plus bottle warm is also crucial.
After the plates dry overnight, it’s time for test shots. From the research, the ISO rating of this emulsion varies and highly dependent on the thickness of the coating. My first coating was so ugly that I am sure I will hit all sorts of ISO rating on the one sheet. For rule of thumb of testing, I metered for ISO of 0.5.
I mounted three flashes at full power (1/1, 105mm) and an LED panel (1000 LED) at full 99%. I metered it at ISO of 3 and showed F8 at 1 sec. I have read that you need to put in a blue filter in front of the meter to get an accurate reading. I don’t have a blue filter handy but I will give it a try later to see if there are any difference. I setup my Graflex Speed Graphic with a Fujinon 135mm f5.6 lens shooting wide open. The light was blinding and I took the tintype to my darkroom.
I pour the Rockland reversal developer onto my Paterson 5×7 trays and started to agitate the plate. The instruction says a development time of at least 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, I can still white spots on the plate. Finally after 6 minutes, the plate turned completely black and then an image started to emerge. I developed the plate for another 4 minutes to a total 10 minutes. Instead of using Rockland’s powdered fixer, I just dump it in my Ilford Rapid Fix bath for 6 minutes before rinsing out with water.
I see an image!! and better yet, I can recognize they’re my 8x10s! The long development time tells me that there might be issues with my developer or my emulsion. The fact that it took so long for my plate to turn completely black tells me that my coating of emulsion might be too thick. The reversal developer in the bottle is also not clear but already slightly brownish when I opened the package. This tells me that the developer might be bad, hence hindered the development. I did a second test shot with the same lighting setup by with my Kodak Aero Ektar 178mm lens wide open at f2.5. When I developed it, even after 13 minutes, only a faint image surfaced. Again, I need to explore rather it’s my developer that’s gone bad or my emulsion is too thick. I was quite shocked that the first tintype turned out as well as it did and this is really encouraging.
I did some research online and found a formula for this reversal developer, which is 120mL stock undiluted Dektol with 4g Ammonium Thiocyanate. I will make my own batch and see how it works out.
Each time I use the Graflex Speed Graphic with the Kodak Aero Ektar lens, I am always so amazed on what I get. After a professional photo sitting Sunday afternoon, I threw in a pack of Fuji FP3000b and took some portraits. For lighting I used an Aputure Amaran AL-528S LED hitting directly at the subject from the front. All polaroids scanned with Doxie Flip scanner. Here are results of that session.
I was nominated by Joyce Peng to do a 7-day self-portrait challenge: 7 days, 7 self-portraits, and 7 nominations to keep this going with other artists/photographers. I invite Kirk Lau to take the time to extend the fun.
I put a small twist to this challenge as well. I will be composing self-portraits through the viewfinders of different cameras.
The last of the challenge, I feature a very special camera. The 1955 Graflex Speed Graphic camera mounted with Kodak 178mm Aero Ektar f2.5 lens. Being large format, the focusing screen is again upside down and reversed left to right. At f2.5, the screen is super bright and you can see the bokeh clearly. Today I am holding my first camera, the Kodak Instamatic X15 which is in 126 format. This is the exact same camera that Dustin Hoffman used in Rain man!
While cleaning up my photo gears, I see a box of Tetenal C41 kit that I got and opened a couple of years ago in Shanghai. Since then, it made its way to Hong Kong and to San Francisco. On arrival to SF, I discovered that one bottle of the Blix solution actually bursted and was leaking all over the box. All these items were stored in a storage that was certainly quite hot (30C+) for months before making its way to the US.
I also found a few 4×5 film boxes of Kodak Portra 400 that I loaded about two years ago. This is when expired chemicals meet expired film, a combination that has the word “disaster” written all over it.
I got my Paterson Auto Colortherm machine from Toronto some time back. I refitted it so that I can use the roller for my jobo tank. I mixed the chemicals into its three parts and noticed a few things. First, the clear blix mixture has a lot of residue at the bottom and was stuck. I warmed it out, it helped a bit but there are still chunks of it at the bottom. Second, the stabilizer bottle have merely 50mL left. 1L mixture required 100mL, what the heck, just mix it.
I took my Graflex SG with a Fujinon 400mm f8 lens on my roof for the test shots in one late afternoon.
I shot the Kodak Porta 400 at ISO 200. I developed the sheets slightly longer than the recommended times. Developed 3:30min, Blix 5min. When I opened the Jobo tank, I see images, solid images. I scanned the negatives with my Epson Perfection V700. The unedited result is shown here.
All the details are there. The edges showed some funky chemical gradient that made the image looked like something out of a roll of lomography film. The overall look of it is vintage and reminded me of a postcard from the 60s.
Overall, I am happy with the result and I guess I will develop many more sheets with the Tetenal kit before it runs out.
Day 4 of 5 of black and white photo challenge. Each day I am trying to post a photo that is taken from a different camera and a different medium. Today I am back on large format but with a different lens and film from day 1. This was shot at the Bund in Shanghai, China. Photo taken with Graflex Speed Graphic + Fujinon 65mm f5.6 lens + Shanghai GP3 film. Developed with Guan long d76 + Guan long F5 Fix, scanned with Epson Perfection V700. Today i nominate Pouya Ash for the BW photo challenge, in which to post one BW photo per day for 5 days and also nominate someone each day because it’s fun.
Thanks for Cheung Billy Ka Ming, I accepted the BW photo challenge. I will be posting one BW photo a day for five days and will nominate someone each day just for fun. Here is a photo I have taken from a maternity shoot I did not long ago. The lovely couple is Catherine Wong and Denis Ng. This photo was taken in Hong Kong with Graflex Speed Graphic + Fujinon A 240mm f9 lens + Fuji Acros. Film developed in Kodak d76 1+1, Kodak Rapid Fix and scanned with Epson Perfection V700. This is one of the first photos I took with the newly acquired A 240mm f9 lens and I have to say it’s absolutely the sharpest lens I own. The lens is extremely light and what’s amazing is that it can even cover 8×10! Today I would like to nominate Kirk Lau to accept my BW photo challenge.
One of the best LF portraits I have taken recently is this one of my mom. Taken with Graflex Speed Graphic + Buhl 9″ f3.6 lens + Fuji Acros. Developed in Kodak d76, 20C 11 minutes, first minute agitation, 4 flips every minute. Fixed with Kodak RapidFix and scanned Epson Perfection V700.
About a year ago, I acquired the legendary Kodak Aero Ektar 178mm f2.5 lens and it was another few months after that I got it mounted on the speed graphic. The first trials of this lens gave me some headaches as I experienced micro-shakes from the large focal plane shutter. Finally, recently I went back to the beast and re-strengthen the mount, so far so good. Can’t wait to go out and take some shots with this!
I also went back to the Graflex speed graphic box and looked at the flash attachment. At first, I thought it was incomplete but in close inspection, everything was intact and looked amazingly cool once attached.