Retro Challenge: Comic-Con 2019!

So, after 5 years going to Comic-Con with Nicole to take pictures, I finally decided to break out the big guns this year. I was a bit spurred on by the fact that a couple whose wedding we photographed 10 years ago kind of made it happen for us to actually go inside this year (Thanks to Ken and Simone!) instead of just standing outside and taking pictures on the sidewalk. In the past, I’ve used my small mirrorless digital, a point-and-shoot film camera, and a rangefinder camera.

I decided to go with the 4×5 camera for a couple of reasons. First, I really just love the perspective afforded by the larger capture device, it looks different; has a different feel to it.  I don’t know that most people will notice but I really like it, so I went that way.  Second, I like the look of older lens formulations.  That kind of softer contrast, not quite as crisp and harsh as modern lenses and cameras are.  And, 3rd would be that I wanted to process the negatives in a certain way as to have a longer tonal scale with nice smooth transitions between tones which you don’t normally see on digital these days. Anything you can do on film, you could do digitally no matter what anybody says.  But, I thought it would be fun to do it old school.

Bored Wonder Woman

Even Superheroes get bored

So, the upside is that I get the look that I want – nice smoother tones, and softer contrast that I think is a more pleasing look.  But, there are some definite downsides. One is that it’s extraordinarily cumbersome. It’s a large camera. It’s really old (circa 1950).  It’s a bit challenging to focus ’cause the range-finder is in need of repair and is also miscalibrated.  So, I have to do a little guesswork on the focus.  Another downside is that it’s really, very seriously, one shot at a time so I have to take a shot and then put the dark slide back in, pull the film holder out of the camera, flip the film holder over, pull the dark slide out on the second shot, re-focus and then take the picture . It’s not very speedy.  The last, and for me, the biggest downside is that it means I would also have to hand process the film in order to get the look I want.  I do not enjoy processing film. There, I said it. I know it’s currently a popular thing to do, but I really never have enjoyed it. Unfortunately, the only way currently to process the film the way I want is to do it myself. So, I chose to use PMK developer which requires extra effort to process. Processing 4×5 is more of a challenge than roll film but recently there was a Kickstarter project from a gentleman who designed a 4×5 processing tank that’s pretty convenient to use. It’s called the Stearman Press SP-445 and I do love it. I’ll put some specs for processing and the actual camera and everything at the end of this posts for the tech geeks out there who want to know exactly what happened.

Double Daenerys

Double Daenerys

The upside, then, is that I’ve gotten the look that I want from the film and had a generally fun time making the photos (except for the developing part).  I’m not sure seeing them online does them justice so I’ll eventually have to make some big prints in the darkroom. In the meantime, Enjoy!

Space Trucker

@nicolecaldwell - "Space Trucker"





Cool Lady

Steampunk Vader

SteamPunk Vader



Blurry Boogie

Blurry Boogie

Freddie Family

Four Freddies - @ophiethewrestler

All images were exposed at EI 800ish at either f8 or f11
Scans were made at The Photo Lab on an Epson V700 flatbed

Camera: Buch Pressman Model D
Film: Ilford HP5+
Developing Tank: Stearman Press Sp-445
Chemistry: PMK Pyro developer and TF-4 fixer from Photographer’s Formulary (purchased from Freestyle Photo)

Film was developed for 16 minutes @ 71℉ with 2 inversions every 15 seconds. Fixed for 4 minutes (2 inversions per minute) and washed for 20-ish minutes in plain water.

Me at Comic-Con with the 4x5 camera
(photo by Nicole Caldwell)

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