8X10 with out a net.

by JamesNYCAugust 14. 2008 09:39
I got a call last week from a photographer friend of mine for an 8X10 shoot.
This was to be a fine art shoot that would take place in a burned out building with out air-conditioning.
While we had plenty of film for the shoot (FUJICOLOR PRO 160S PROFESSIONAL), but we came to find that Polaroid 8x10 could not be found anywhere in or around NYC.

The lack of Polaroid and use of hot-lights for the shoot presented an interesting scenario.
This would require what some would consider the “old school method” metering every part of the set to see exactly where the lights were falling off, and where the hot spots were, and balancing the ratios across the set.
Now let me interject and respond to those asking “Why not just shoot digital?”
1) It’s what the photographer wanted.
2) 8x10 was the right tool for the job.

While this may not sound like much fun to some people, I live for this stuff
Since we didn’t have Polaroid we at least had some latitude that shooting C-41 offered. After metering we shoot ? stop open from meter, plus the ½ stop compensation for a slight bellows extension. So because we were essentially shooting blind we did do a 2 sheet bracket, plus ½ stop open for the second sheet, for all of the shots that day.
Did I mention that we were shooting in Jersey?
This meant that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to see the film until later the next day; and since we were again on set first thing in the morning we still didn’t have the option to view the results of the first day until we brought in the film later that day.
SO what we did was to have the lab contact print the negs and scan 3 with a flatbed scanner and email the JPG’s to use. This worked pretty well for the photographer as he got to see that he was getting what he wanted. While looking at the JPG’s I noticed that the even though the images looked great, I could still see a hint of the film base on the contact sheet. This meant that even with over exposing by nearly 2 stops we had to over expose more. Having this new information made shooting the second day a little less stressful.

So now I metered and shot 3 stops over.
That evening we got to see the first days contact sheets and film. The contact sheets look great, everything in focus, great depth of field, perfect… until I saw the negatives.

All the metering and bellows extension factoring in the world makes absolutely no difference when the lab you’re using is running a slow processing line that is more than 1 stop slow. When I asked to see the log book for the C-41 control test strips, they couldn’t seem to find it. Having done film processing for way too many years I could tell by looking at our negs that the film processing chemistry was either not getting replenished often enough or the chemistry was being diluted. And yes, this is a common practice among some film labs. I saw it first hand when I worked at labs in NYC. Ever wonder why you B&W negs come back magenta? It’s because they over dilute the fixer because it costs the labs too much to mix the chemistry properly.

To compensate for this on days 3 & 4, we shot the film at F.64 @ 4 seconds, rather than pushing the film which would not only have added contrast but would have also added magenta and changed the look that the photographer was going for.
The real lesson here is to develop a relationship with your photo lab if you’re still shooting film, and to do film tests before shooting your jobs. Just like in the olden days.




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