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Thread: Four and One Half Minutes

  1. #1

    Four and One Half Minutes

    Self portrait, f/400 box camera, 5"X5" format, preflashed grade 2 paper. Very windy spring afternoon, dust and leaves flying about, this exposure made in the afternoon shade of my front courtyard, lit by reflected light from the courtyard wall. I like the sharp texture of the stucco wall behind me.


    "There was just that moment and now there's this moment and in between there is nothing. Photography, in a way, is the negation of chronology."-Geoff Dyer, "The Ongoing Moment"
    My Writing Blog: Joe Van Cleave's Blog
    My Pinhole Blog: Obscure Camera
    Visit my F295 Gallery

  2. #2
    Excellent self-portrait. To keep still such a long time is hard. I tried it also several times.
    -_- Best wishes from Switzerland, René -_- my photos on flickr

  3. #3
    Nice portrait, Joe!
    Along the line of your work with paper negatives, do you have any thoughts for a starting guesstimate of ISO rating for pre-flashed Agfa Brovira BS 119?
    I believe this is approximately a grade 2 paper, as well. I'm about to try some in a new camera and don't want to waste too many sheets on wild exposure guesses!

    I tried some Polycontrast F, but the sky UV blows it out way too fast for the scenery to register...

    Last edited by DaveBell; 04-20-2013 at 04:56 PM.

  4. #4

    In general for scenic landscape images and paper negatives, you're best to totally ignore the exposure of the sky and instead expose for the most significant parts of the land itself. The reason I say this is because paper is so sensitive to blue & UV, and the sky over-exposes so much more than the landscape, which isn't nearly as efficient at reflecting UV ... with the exception of water.

    If you can recall some classic 19th century landscape images, by the likes of Carlton Watkins and others, the skies in their images were always blown out white, as if the sky were always overcast. This was because their emulsions were also sensitive mainly to UV and blue.

    Paper negatives will render a similar "19th-century" type of landscape tonal range. So my advice is to meter for the major land formations that will make up the principal subject matter of the image and let the sky exposure do what it wants. You will not get that dramatic dark sky/white clouds, Ansel Adams'-style landscape image with paper negatives.

    However, with wide angle pinhole cameras and flat film planes, they can often cause enough light falloff near the edges and corners of the image to indeed give you some subtle sky detail there, due to both the off-axis focal length being larger than the center (and hence the off-axis focal ratio being larger) and also because the pinhole appears elliptical near the edges, both effects contributing to falloff of exposure near the edge.

    As for the paper you mentioned, I have no experience with it, so my best advice is to do a series of test exposures, starting at ISO3 and working up to around ISO12, and see what you get. This is easy if you have a camera that takes a conventional sheet film holder, because you can pull out the darkslide partway and do a series of test exposures similar to how you would do a test strip in the darkroom. Expose a scene lit in bright sunny conditions with both shadow, medium tones and bright highlights, and use your standard development routine for paper negatives. See which exposure yields the best balance between shadows and highlights, especially with pleasing midtones. That will point toward the optimal working exposure index of the paper.

    The reason I hesitate to put a speed figure on the paper is because much of it depends on whether it used a developer-incorporated emulsion, which can significantly speed up the developement process and effect speed somewhat, but also makes it somewhat harder to do slow development by inspection. Also, if it's multigrade it can have a different spectral sensitivity than graded. Although the Freestyle grade 2 I use at EI=12, so there's always the exception to the rule, which is another good reason to do speed tests.

    Because this sort of speed testing can be laborious and time-consuming, it is for this reason that I've found a paper I like and tend to stick with it, I'd rather pay the price for "new" paper of which I am familiar with its properties than save a few bucks and have to spend more time testing.

    This reminds me of a direct positive paper, put out a few years ago by Efke. The paper was so hard to control that I'd end up using most of a pack just in testing, with little left over to actually make photographs with. Thank the Good Lord for Harman DPP.

    Last edited by JoeVanCleave; 04-20-2013 at 07:59 PM.
    "There was just that moment and now there's this moment and in between there is nothing. Photography, in a way, is the negation of chronology."-Geoff Dyer, "The Ongoing Moment"
    My Writing Blog: Joe Van Cleave's Blog
    My Pinhole Blog: Obscure Camera
    Visit my F295 Gallery

  5. #5
    Hi Joe,

    That is a really nice portrait; I cannot sit still long enough ...


    If you want any (slim) chance of getting sky and clouds with a paper negative, as Joe says, you may be lucky in the vignette regions, or you have to go to VC paper with a yellow filter; all the graded paper I have tried is only sensitive to blue/UV. The VC paper though has a layer sensitive to green and with the yellow filter, the blue layer is pretty much not used.

    All the VC paper I have used though has a drawback in that it is usually developer incorporated and so you really have to let it develop to completion, rather than pulling it from the developer by inspection. All my attempts at overexposing and develop-by-inspection have left significant 'mottling' in the images. As you just have to dunk the negative in the developer and hope for the best, it is worth bracketing shots if possible; pre-flashing is also highly recommended in order to eek out what dynamic range you can.

    You need to keep the yellow filter really clean though as any dust gets resolved out as splodges in the image as it is so close to the pinhole. There are some examples of clouds (and a dusty filter) here.

    Best regards,

    More mad ramblings at

  6. #6
    Thanks, Joe and Evan!

    I'm trying to tune in a newly built cylindrical anamorphic camera before WPPD. Mid-height ratio is about f236.
    No problem to let the sky blow out white it's the surroundings I want

    First tests with the Polycontrast F (yeah, it's all old paper, but completely unfogged), pre-flashed, I got only the faintest shadow areas, under what I believed to be complete overexposure of the UV sensitive layer.
    Tried again yesterday with the Brovira grade 2. It pre-flashed in nearly 1/4 the time as the Poly F, so seems to a much faster paper.

    The Brovira at barely 5 seconds is still a very dark paper negative, with very low contrast upon scanning and reversal.
    I'm developing in Dektol 1+1 to completion; I can't see well enough under the safelight for useful "by inspection".
    If my math is correct, a dense negative of a sunny (noon-ish) building and landscape in 5 seconds at f236 indicates a rating of >43 ASA, which seems unreasonably high.

    As a possible non-optical issue, could I be fogging my paper with residual paint fumes? (Interior sprayed with textured flat black Rustoleum)


  7. #7

    Yea, that Brovira sounds pretty fast! It is possible it's fogged either through age or chemically. There's also the possibility of your safelight not being safe enough; that is, too bright, too close to your work surface or not deep red enough.

    Sounds like you may not have enough time before next Sunday to source an alternative (like, brand new) paper. Unless you live in the western US and can order some Freestyle Arista paper and have them ship it in a few days, it could get to you before Friday.

    If you haven't exposed the whole box of Brovira to your safelight, you could try tray processing some exposed negatives in total darkness to completion, giving the paper as a starting ISO maybe around 8 to 12 as see if there's a major difference to your previous results.

    "There was just that moment and now there's this moment and in between there is nothing. Photography, in a way, is the negation of chronology."-Geoff Dyer, "The Ongoing Moment"
    My Writing Blog: Joe Van Cleave's Blog
    My Pinhole Blog: Obscure Camera
    Visit my F295 Gallery

  8. #8
    I did process both papers, flashed but otherwise unexposed, and it was barely perceptibly off pure white.
    Had plenty of safelight exposure, but I haven't yet tried leaving some in the camera, for possible paint fogging. Maybe tonight...


  9. #9
    Well, I finally got back into the darkroom. Pre-flashed (1 1/2 seconds under the enlarger, raised all the way up and stopped all the way down) test strips:
    1 - sat 12 minutes under safelight with a coin on it.
    2 - sat in the camera (still smells of paint) for 10 minutes in the dark.
    3 - into the camera, then sat out in the sun (shutter closed) for 5 minutes.
    Nothing developed on any of them, more than the pre-flash base, although that should be a little less.

    This paper is just TOO fast!
    I re-visited my exposure math, and really was understating it; at the halfway point up the side of the wall, I have to take into consideration some 25% foreshortening of the pinhole on one axis, giving an effective f-ratio more like f/314. That's almost 400 times less than f/16.
    5 seconds exposure was too much, so at least ASA 80 ?!?

  10. #10
    500+ Posts Ned.Lewis's Avatar
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    I don't know anything about that particular paper but that does seem incredibly fast. I once saw something similar using paper in an old folding camera. There was a light leak that only occurred when the camera was fully open... so during the exposure the paper was also being bathed from leak.. it made the paper seem very fast and reduced contrast. Without knowing the design of your camera I don't know if this might be a possible explanation. I've actually kept it in mind because I was wondering about repeating something like it on purpose.... I have a few negatives from this time with a contrasty sky and clouds but foreground details visible.

    Evan, I recently overexposed a VC paper negative by accident and developed it in dektol 1:8 which I made by taking some well used yellow 1:4 dektol and adding ice water. The results were extremely interesting ( warm and varying color, reduced contrast, and an amazing range of tones. ) The inverted version is currently at the top of my flickr page. This is high on my list of things to experiment with.. I'll be thrilled if I can repeat this intentionally!
    Some photos: Ipernity
    ( pinholes and solargraphs mixed in among the rest)

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