Galaxy Direct Positive

I had joined the original Galaxy Kickstarter campaign for direct positive paper and bought a pack of 8x10 paper. I generally support new film activities (for instance I also support the Ferrania Film Project as well.)

It turns out Galaxy convinced Slavich to repackage their photo-booth paper into larger formats and perhaps reformulated the reversal chemistry. As annoying as the website is I think it is all to the good that they are generating interest and support in traditional photography.

The biggest complaint I have is there is very little technical information about the product and as such one is reliant on their chemistry which is fine but never seems to be in stock at least in the UK. (This seems due to some restrictions on shipping some of the chemicals in Europe.)

Having a 8x10 large format camera now I want to use the paper so I suppose I need to create my own reversal chemistry.

Reversal is a clever process used in slide film and black and white and colour movie stock. It consists of a normal exposure and development. Next a bleach (non-halation) is performed to strip away the developed silver. What is left is undeveloped silver with a density that varies inversely with the amount that was stripped away. Previously dense areas leave thin silver and vice versus. Next the film is re-exposed and then redeveloped. Done right one gets a positive image with good contrast and tonal range.

Of course one can see getting the correct amount of silver to remain behind and the re-exposure done properly introduces a lot of sensitivity to the process.

I researched what I could based on Potassium Permanganate bleach. Dichromate seems much more popular but I have none the consequence of having already sided with the less toxic Potassium Permanganate. (A debate has raged on forums about the relatives dangers.) I had to researched formulas and settled on one from Liam Lawless and Ed Buffaloe who are referenced a lot for reversal processing.

  • Permanganate Stock
    • 25g Potassium Permanganate
    • Water to make 500mL
  • Sulphuric Acid Stock
    • 25mL Concentrated Sulfuric Acid
    • 475mL water
Some Warnings on above   Potassium permanganate is an oxidizer and therefore a fire hazard.  Dispose of carefully.  Dry crystals and concentrated solutions are caustic.  Do not breathe dust or fumes.  Handle with gloves.
       Concentrated sulphuric acid must always be added to water slowly, never water to acid.  This chemical is highly corrosive and may cause severe burns if it comes in contact with skin or mucous membranes.  Wear eye protection at all times and handle with extreme caution.  Do not breathe fumes.  
I then make a working solution at 1+9 by adding 50mL of Permanganate Stock with 50mL Sulphuric Acid stock and 900 mL of water.

A clearing bath is needed after the bleach to remove the bleach by products. There a few of these. I opted for Sodium Sulfite (Sodium Metabisulphite is popular) as I had some of this as well. I hunted around and found a simple formula

  • Clearing Solution
    • 10mg Sodium Sulphite
    • Water to make 1L
What I learned however is it doesn't work. I found this thread that indicates it needs to be acidic. I then would use 200ml clearing solution (100ml is supposed to be sufficient) per print and added some stop bath (acid) at 50ml of 1+9 stop bath. This is single use for me.

A day's experimentation gave me results but I needed to make sure the paper was initially exposed at ASA 16. I tried bracketing around the box rated 120 ASA but everything turned mostly black with a faint image (after reversal). I reasoned I need more exposed silver to bleach out hence more exposure. I also needed to be careful even then with flashing the paper after bleaching. Initially I would turn the room lights on  during the clearing phase and afterwards. This overexposed the remaining silver making the image very dark. I ended up gradually flashing the paper as it developed in the developer. Once this is dialed in I think consistent prints could be made. 

Another thing to note is a dim red safe light was invaluable and I found sparing use of it did not fog the paper despite the paper's speed. 

Finally I guess there are some substantially different aspects of the Galaxy chemistry that make the results easier to get consistent and resolve the difference in speed I experienced. I know they chemically fog the paper (sepia toner?) to eliminate the difficult light flashing. This may be setup to yield the higher paper speed as perhaps it exhausts the fogging agent and has developer and fixer included in the same bath. (There are only four baths apparently.)

So my steps I ended up with were. 
  • Expose paper at ASA 16
  • Develop Ilford Universal PQ 1+9 2 minutes (1 minute is probably sufficient but I want all exposed silver developed) 
  • Water stop bath 1 minute (could be acid but I lacked room for the tray and you would want to wash after acid stop anyway.) 
  • Bleach (as above) 1 minute. A faint image is still visible, not to worry the clearing bath will remove what is left. 
  • Wash 30 sec
  • Clearing 2 minutes (or until clear by inspection under dim red light)
  • Wash 30 sec
  • Flash (tricky part as my light and timings are not calibrated.)
  • Redevelop 2 minutes Ilford Universal PQ
  • Fix! 1 minute rapid fixer
  • Rinse 5 minutes. 
  • Dry

The results of tests below... 
ASA 16 flashed with lights on during clearing and developing
ASA 16 flashed with room lights for 7 seconds during developing
ASA 16 flashed with enlarger for 8 seconds during developing
The final image is pretty good. It lack some contrast however. Besides I ran out of time by the time I finished it. 


Kodak XX Film for the Minolta 16mm spy Camera

After a failed attempt to use old Russian 16mm film I decided to get new stock and after perusing ebay and reading up on B+W film the obvious choice was Kodak XX (Double X) 7222 16mm movie film. It  is a proper negative film and has a fan base that admires its speed (200 in Tungsten and 250 in daylight) even tones and low grain. 100 ft (a lifetime supply for my purposes, About 1300 photos.) set me back £42. The subclub has tons of resources for these small cameras. The loading for Minolta cartridges is covered here.

I loaded about 8 inches into one of my film cartridges and took some quick test photos with my Minolta 16PS. I shot the photos at ASA 200. I developed the film according to Massive Dev chart in my normal film developer Ilford LC29. The timing for this development was for ASA 250. For properly metered shots the negatives came out well balanced.

Scanning 16mm is difficult as I don't have a proper holder and I could not locate the small glass plate i use for this. Both images look soft though scanned at 6400 dpi, the first is probably and the closeup limit of the camera but I suspect the negative was also not laying flat on the scanner.

Scanned negative inverted and level adjusted. 

Scanned negative inverted and level adjusted. 
I then set about making prints to better evaluate the focus and grain. I print these on half sheets of 8x10 paper (8x5) which gives a nice border.

Ilford MGIV Print f8 #5 32 sec #0 16 sec
Ilford MGIV Print f8 #5 32 sec #0 22 sec
These still look soft in terms of focus. The next set with the trellis are very sharp confirming my suspicions. The first is high contrast filter only which emphasizes the grain.
Ilford MGIV Print f8 #5 53 sec
Ilford MGIV Print f8 #5 32 sec #0 16 sec
The second version mixes some low contrast filtration for a smoother range of tones. These negatives are 10x14mm so very small hence the obvious grain. Below is a zoom on a portion of the first trellis photo with the high contrast filtration.
Zoom to show grain
In conclusion I think the film works well. Enlarged to this size on 8x5" paper with a 6"x4" image makes for a really nice print.

The Big Eye: Portrait Test

I wanted to run some more tests and settled on a portrait (myself) for a subject. I set up the Big Eye in the driveway and would use the sunny day to keep the exposure reasonably short. I would use my Ortho Lith film as I did in a previous post and try and adjust for what I learned. I rate the film at ASA 3 this time and a metered exposure at f45 called for 2 seconds. My wife ran the shutter. I developed it in HC-110 1+165 (6ml+994ml water) for 14 minutes. I got this on the film.

UltraFine Ortho Lith Negative
A print revealed something workable. However the strong sunlight and Lith film makes it high contrast and the background is completely black being entirely in shadow. I used only a #0 filter given the high contrast of the negative and exposed for 23 seconds for good density of black.
Final Print f16 #0 23 sec Ilford MGIV Deluxe

Ultrafine Ortho Lith Development

Having built an 8x10 camera I am now exploring making images. The great expense is the cost of film. Below are some examples...per sheet!

Ilford     FP4+/FP5+     £5.20
Ilford     Delta/Ortho+  £5.50
Foma     100                  £1.90
Foma     200                  £2.90
Fuji        Provia             £17.50 (Colour)
Ultrafine Ortho Lith     £1.15
Ultrafine Continuous Tone £1.20

Some reading reveals that in addition to paper negatives (use of photo paper for negatives) another cheap alternative is ortho lith film. Like paper is it insensitive to red light and this renders the same problems/effects one sees with paper negatives like white skies as it is very blue sensitive and darkened reds. It is also comparably slow (hence ortho). It is also very contrasty being made to render high contrast text and graphics.

I had some 8x10 Ultrafine Ortho Lith I bought for other projects. I had to read up on how to tame the contrast and also needed to find a good ASA to use. Photo Warehouse says ASA 10 and there is very little published on the Ultrafine brand though much is available online about the Arista brand.

Basically one can buy a low contrast developer but I opted for one I had HC-110. First however some test exposures. I made the first at 1 stop intervals assuming ASA 8 bracketing the metered exposure. This I metered to f45 at 16". So the test was f45 at 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 seconds. I then developed it in Kodak HC-110 at 6ml syrup to 1000ml water (1+165). Very dilute developer slows the development and ortho film can be inspected under a red light. On Massive Dev Chart I found a formula for 1+200 HC-110 for Arista ortho film and it recommended 14 minutes. I watched the development progress under a safe light and it seemed to stop after 5 minutes. So I cut off a strip and used a water stop bath while I let the rest of the film develop for a full 10 minutes. The results are below. The portion I pulled first is on the right,

The development clearly continued. The negative was thin and had tone but looks contrasty still. I had taken a second image with metered exposure of 16" at f45 for my assumed ASA 8. This I developed in a fresh batch of developer for 15 minutes.

I got an image but it is really under exposed; probably by a full stop. That says I should consider it to be ASA 4 for this development. (The apparent light leak on the left I think is due to me opening the daylight tank before my water stop bath.) I may try and print this one next.


The Big Eye: A DIY Large Format Camera

What have I gotten myself into? These are my thoughts after completing another project today. Do I really need this? Was this a project for the project's sake? Or perhaps I found myself enthralled by the romance of a truly large camera. Well anyway this is how I got here...

I had managed to collect a number of cheap components and a couple of weeks ago I realized I was close to having a large format camera. I had bought a 300mm f5.6 Rodenstock Rodagon lens for £18.60+£6.00 shipping because I couldn't pass it up about a year and a half ago when I was thinking of making my own 4x5 enlarger (I know way too big a lens for 4x5). I also bought a 5x5" bellows in good condition for £18.00 for the same project. Finally I saw a few weeks ago three 8x10 dark slide film holders for £75. The seller threw in a fourth decrepit one which was fortunate.

A subconscious plan had developed with this third purchase. Build a large format camera.

I spent a two weekends putting it together. I had decided to do this quickly and cheaply. I like to build finer woodworking projects but couldn't see myself putting in the time and collecting the materials for this. Instead I would use material I had laying around in the garage. Mostly plywood.

I did do a little planning but not enough to avoid some minor mistakes. I did some reading and Jon Grepstad's Camera Builders site is the most comprehensive I found. This got me started on the basic idea (though I already own and use a 4x5 so have a pretty good idea of how they work.) This would be a flatbed design.

I started out making a frame to hold the film holders. I made it from three layers of plywood which made for a slot to guide the film holder. The final strips of plywood would be tightened with some knobs I salvaged from an old enlarger. Tightening these knobs would press the film holder tight against the frame keeping it light tight.
Back of camera with slot for film holder. Knobs are used to tighten it. Note groove just below screws to fit light seal in film holders.

Top view showing film holder slot. The sides are attached at the bottom and flex out at the top to accommodate the film holder. 

The frame I then mounted vertically to a piece of plywood (the flatbed portion). I then put another piece in front of this at a distance that was about 12" (300mm focal length) minus the collapsed bellows thickness. In this front piece I made a 5x5" hole and mounted one end of the bellows using thin strips of wood and screws.

The front of the camera with lensboard and dovetail slide. This is the fully retracted position. 

Side view showing bellows fully retracted. Camera box is on the left in block.
In the flatbed I made a sliding dovetail trough where my focus adjustment would slide. A matching dovetailed board was made to fit this so the whole thing slides forward and back.

Bellows fully extended.

At the other end of the bellows I mounted yet another piece of plywood that would also mount my lens. This had a hole for the lens sawn in it and a square slot at the back to accept the end of the bellows. Again more wood strips were used to secure the bellows and make it light tight. The lens was screwed to the front. Two strips of plywood were attached to the sliding board to accept this lens-board.

The bellows are not tapered and this created  an aspect of the design where there is a large camera box. This was to make sure I could maximize the extension of the bellows before the film end of the bellows would obscure the image from the lens. In fact the full extension is determined by this problem. I laid a straight edge from the edge of the inside end of lens to the edge of the film holder  and move the lens away from the film holder until the line of the straight edge indicated it would cross the edge of the bellows on the side. This was my maximum extension. Since bellows extension is used for less than infinity focusing this would probably be alright. Testing revealed this left the minimum focus at about 2ft.

Then I used foam board to enclose the camera box. These were glued to the tops and sides carefully to ensure no gaps for light to leak through. This would make it lighter (and besides I had the material. It will not be very rugged however.)

Next I took a thin sheet of clear acrylic and sanded it using 600 grit sandpaper to make a focusing screen. This is not ideal as the scratches are too visible as long scratches and while it works the focus is still difficult.

The focusing screen was fitted to the fourth decrepit film holder and the weak joints glued together again. I was careful to try and make sure the distance from the front of the frame to the focusing screen was the same as the film in the film holder.

Finally I loaded the film holders with 4 sheets of Ilford MGIV C paper to use as paper negatives. I took 3 exposures that I metered at ASA 3 at f11 at 8 seconds. I took one exposure at 8 seconds, another at 16 and another at 32. These I timed by counting out the seconds and using the lens cap as a shutter. The fourth paper I used to test light tightness. For this I left the lens cap on and opened the dark slide and left the camera in daylight for 5 minutes. I then returned the dark slide.

The results are encouraging. The first exposure at the metered setting was recognizable. The subsequent ones were much too dark. The image was very contrasty but this is expected with unfiltered VC paper and I did not have large enough filter to put in from of the lens.

The light leak test sheet developed completely white which is great news.

Here is the first negative.

Paper Negative
Inverted image

Basically the image is recognizable. It suffers from too much contrast. It is also not well focused. The right side of the image is in focus (the bricks in the house). Traveling further left across the house and beyond it is increasingly out of focus. I set the focus using the near roof line as it was easy to focus on. I set f11 to make a countable number of seconds. Unfortunately large format DOF is very narrow even at f11. Using an online calculator I found that 300mm at f11 only gives 3.74m of focus behind the subject and 2.2m in front. I would have to go to f45 to get to infinite behind the subject. I have learned my first lesson!

I will need to further check the film and focus screen distances are the same and check on parallelism in the lens to film plane.

Anyway the adventure awaits. What have I gotten myself in for?


Thin Negatives

When my father was in hospital for open heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic I took out some time one afternoon to look around downtown Cleveland. I took the bus down and brought along my Gevabox 6x9 box camera. I had nice walk around took a number of photos. The Gevabox only has a couple of apertures and one shutter speed.

I found a mural on a building of a cowboy and cattle herd. I was across the street and the light was poor being in a shadow between buildings. After I developed the film in my hotel the negative was disappointingly thin. Indeed so thin as to almost not hold an image.

Here is scan of the negative. I know... not much to see here. .
I tried to print it but it was very difficult. Very little contrast it was a disaster.

Recently I was reminded in some reading about intensifying negatives, Now you can buy commercial intensifier based I think on Chromium and since I had none is why I hadn't tried it. However I learned there are other methods using Sulphide (Sepia) toner or Selenium which I do have. I so took my 1+3 selenium dilution and placed the negative into it. It darkened immediately. Still very thin but noticeably darker. I dried the negative and proceeded to print it. The results turned out quite good. I had to print with solely a #5 filter. The consequences of the poor exposure are evident as there is no more contrast to be had. The negative had to be extremely clean and dust free as any small spec showed readily. A scan of the resulting print is below.


The Purton Hulks

At the end of a recent holiday we visited with some good friends who live in Stroud. They took us out to visit the Purton Hulks along the Severn River. This is a place where old ships were placed along the bank to shore it up against erosion. It was a nicely cloudy day and we all took cameras and took some photos. Here is one of mine I printed in different ways to explore contrast and light.

To start with I used just a #5 high contrast filter.

f16 #5 16 sec

The sky was washed out so I burned it again with just #5 filter. This gives a brooding dark sky though the day was not like that at all.

f16 #5 16 sec burn sky 11 sec
A little less burning off the sky gives a closer approximation to the day. Again only #5 filter was used.
f16 #5 16 sec burn sky 8 sec
Next a little low contrast #0 filter was added. But the sky is not well resolved.
f16 #5 11 sec #0 4 sec
And finally a conventional print.
f16 #5 11 sec  #0 8 sec