Analog Photography: hands-on with a large format camera, developing and making a direct negative print

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

At the Lange Exceptional Masterpieces exhibition, currently on till Dec 5, we participated in a special activity, showcasing analog photography, where a large format camera is used to shoot a paper negative, and the entire process of developing and printing a portrait is showcased.

TGIFridays Special activity. Large Format film photography: Shoot film and see it develop and printed

While you are at the Lange Exceptional Masterpieces Exhibition at the National Gallery, check out the special activity in partnership with After Dark Room Studio, Singapore’s only experimental analog photography studio. The studio is setup at the Lange exhibition with a 4×5 large format camera, lights and a dark room. And the visitor can have their portrait taken, and participate in the analog development and print of the photograph at the show.

The experience is rather interesting. Firstly, the use of a 4×5 large format camera is unusual. The film loaded in the holder is not negative film, but print paper. A negative image is created on exposure.

The Intrepid 4×5 camera used.

Ryan Lee who runs the studio, tells me that the ISO of the paper is about 6, so lots of light is needed. Two Profoto strobes are used for lighting. The lens is a Nikkor 150mm 4×5 large format lens. In 4×5 terms, this is about 45mm, so roughly normal focal length. I requested my portrait to be shot wide open, which was f/5.6.

After exposure, the paper is developed in a dark room, adjacent. The film holder is opened in the dark room with a red safe light. Black and White photographic paper is not sensitive to red light, so this can be used to see the process. The paper is removed from the holder and placed in a tray with Developer chemical, and submerged for a specific time. Note timer at the top of the image below. At this stage, watch the paper, and the image will appear. For those who have not seen this process before, the latent image almost suddenly appears on the white paper, and the effect is often described as magical.

The paper is then put into a water bath, to stop the developer chemical. This step is called the StopBath. The paper is then moved into another tray with Fixer chemical to make the image permanent. At this stage, the image is permanent, and the paper can be exposed to light, and examined. Note that this image is a negative image, meaning the black parts represents bright parts of the scene and white parts represent dark parts of the scene.

The next step is to reverse this and make a positive print. To do so, the paper is placed in contact with another piece of photographic paper. This is done in the dark, with safe light, as the unexposed paper is sensitive to normal light. After carefully aligning both papers to form a sandwich, it is briefly exposed to a bright light source. When we did my portrait, it was 0.5s exposure from the light of an iPhone screen. A positive of the image is transferred to the paper. And the same process of the water baths with Developer, StopBath, and Fixer is used. The final image is then a normal (positive) image. A more detailed description of the process, known as Direct Negative Contact Print is found here.

On the right, is the negative paper which was exposed in the camera, and developed and fixed in chemical baths. And on the left, the final print, after exposing the negative paper in contact with a fresh photographic paper to light, and then developing and fixing. This gives a normal, positive image.

This is an interesting, a one of a kind, analog portrait session coupled with a behind the scenes look at the darkroom printing process. After the Lange exhibition, you can experience this at After Dark Room Studios.