Thursday, 12 January 2017

Le Forgeron

I've never really been into still life photography - always saw it as a bit, well, dull.  But recently I've begun to think about it and even more recently, do something about it.  There was nice winter light coming in through the window yesterday morning so I balanced one of Mrs NE Liberties' ornaments on a shoebox and pointed the Sinar at it.

Le Forgeron is one of two pieces that sit on our block of wood that acts as a mantlepiece.  They were given to my wife's grandparents as a wedding present, sometime in the 1920s.  The story goes is that they were made from WW1 cannons that were melted down after the war.  I'm not a great fan of ornaments but these I like.

 Anyway, I was going to try developing the sheet film in a tray, for a change, but chickened out at the last minute (didn't really fancy spending 13+ mins in complete darkness while I agitated the tray) and got out the Unicolor tank and it's matching motorised base - both well over 30 years old.  In case you're mad enough to contemplate getting into large format photography the Unicolor tank is just one system you can use to develop the film.  As I say, you can do it in trays - complete darkness is required for the developing stage.  Once development has been halted (usually by a quick stop bath) then you can turn on the lights (apparently) while fixing the image.  I say apparently, I haven't tried it myself - they say it's cool to watch the film clear as the fixer dissolves any unexposed crystals of silver.   There are other systems, including tanks which can usually hold a few sheets at the time.  Most seem to work by putting the sheet of film in a hanger of some sort and then dunking the whole thing into the tank.  In my case I'm using an old Unicolor 10x8 print drum which takes up to 4 sheets of 4x5 film at a time.  I've written a bit about it before somewhere - it's very economical with the old chemicals.  The downside is, as I found out yesterday, that the system is getting on a bit in years.  After I poured the developer in I placed the drum on the base and pressed the 'on' switch.  And...nothing happened.  I was a bit flummoxed and started to rotate the drum by hand while I got my brain in gear.  Could I continue emulating the action of the motorised base for the next 10-odd minutes?  I was rapidly coming to the conclusion that this was not going to happen, so for want of anything else to do, I placed the drum on the base and continued my manual rotation.  And as luck would have it, after a couple of seconds the base decided to wake up and the thing sprang into life.  Temperamental, these old things.  Anyway, the negative looked OK once it came out of the wash and I hung it up to dry in what goes for a drying cabinet around here - part of a bookcase sourced from Ikea.

This morning I fired up the Nova slotty tank, stuck a 150mm lens on the DeVere and bashed out a print or two.  The result wasn't great:

Le Forgeron via the Sinar, on FP4+ in ID-11, printed on Kentmere VC Select and sepia toned.
So, a still life.  Not the best print but actually, I quite enjoyed the process.  Maybe it's the age I'm at or maybe it's the fact that it's a bit slippy outside these days - which I don't really like on account of me metal hips and all - but I can see myself doing a bit more indoor work over the next while.  It's kind of slow and you can take your time and actually think about the thing a bit - and that suits the Sinar workflow anyway.   We'll see.

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