4×5 Film: The Thunder Bay Series

I picked up the negatives from Northern Artists Lab tonight, and busily scanned the first three sheets of Ilford Delta 100 film from the Thunder Bay adventure. The entire process is much more involved as the negative is giant in comparison to 35mm or even medium format film, and the dust is brutal to Photoshop out. I believe that this has as much to do with my loading the film holders as it does with the nature of these negatives and Northern Artists development this time through. Shooting with a giant camera and a jacket over my head, brought a lot of commentary from the locals in town, but that is to be expected when you are using fifty year old technology that few people would have ever seen before even if they had been alive then.

The first thing to mention is that I truly loved shooting with the Linhof Color 45S with the Schneider-Kreuznach 90mm f.8 lens. While we did have 4 unexposed/ruined film sheets out of 16, that is to be expected when one uses a view camera in the field for the first time, and the $20 wasted is just the cost of learning. The time it takes to set up the camera and get a proper exposure is about 20 minutes, but for images like these that is not an issue: neither the train nor the factory were going anywhere. The process is Zen in nature and not the type of thing I would want to do at this stage if I was relying on the camera for my only shot opportunity. This is not a sports, event or snapshot camera; a view camera excels at landscapes, portraits and still-life.

Thunder Bay Landscapes
As a series, I wanted to alter the way the camera captured the basic negative. In my own mind I wanted an almost HDR contrast effect to pull out the details of the railway lines and debris. Using SilverFX Pro 2, I was able to tweak the contrast and remove the foggy nature of Thunder Bay in March, which is no small feat. As an industrial series, I wanted to express the starkness of the abandoned silos; perhaps I was thinking of the wasteland described in Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, but I wanted give an ashen quality to the photographs. The Ilford Delta 100 film provided me with a lot of latitude when scanning. Delta is my favourite black and while emulsion for consistency and ability to capture the dynamic range available. I am still looking for a lab to develop the Kodak Portra 400 sheet film that Kodak sent me a few months back so that I can perform lens tests.
Thunder Bay Landscapes
Thunder Bay does have many inspiring landscapes, but it was the abandoned industry that appealed to me most. The contemplative nature of view camera photography matched the feeling of the city, and on my March Break I certainly had the time for contemplation. Ideally, I would love to use the Linhof with a digital back and adapter when I am shooting food photography. While the 90mm does not provide much room for tilts or shifts at infinity focus, due to the wide focal length, I imagine that the 210mm would provide me with a great latitude for such work. In an ideal world, I would  be able to procure a newer, digital version of a 180mm focal length for a digital back, though.
In the end, I am extremely happy with both the Thunder Bay series and the large format film camera experience. For the $800 that my entire rig cost used, I firmly believe that this set-up offers the ultimate in learning experiences about photography; experiences that are just not possible using standard 35mm digital cameras.

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