Many lifetimes ago but mainly before family, I did a lot of film photography. I had a small darkroom, shot 35mm, medium format, large format and even ultra large format film. Lith printing was the most fun. I didn’t do it professionally, I did it to escape. Stuck in front of screens all day as a Software Developer, film photography and the whole process allowed me a creative outlet.
When the family arrived, the darkroom went, the toys got sold or mothballed and any photography was family related and digital…
The only camera, kit and film that (gladly) didn’t manage to sell was my Richard Ritter ULF 7×17 that I had purchased at a peak of GAS and was only really just in the process of finding my feet with. So it sat (not quite) forgotten until COVID-19 induced spare time allowed the thoughts of possibly resurrecting it to start to form.
Apart from some chemicals and a rotary development tank I had everything I needed, other than the confidence, bravery and space that is. On a day of maximum boredom, frustration and shouting at the world I dug all the pieces out and started on the task of seeing if it all still worked in some form or another.
I have 3 film holders, although 1 side of 1 one of them is sticking when loading film. I’ll have to sand that when I’m feeling brave. So currently only 5 shots at any one time. My only serviceable lens is the fabulous Schneider G-Claron 355mm f/11, which has coverage to spare and is reasonably wide for the format so yay!
Using a Harrison Jumbo film changing tent I can load the holders on the dining table. With a Jobo 2850 drum I can develop 2 sheets at a time in the kitchen. I can’t print yet so the huge negatives are scanned in two parts on a flatbed scanner and Pano merged in Affinity before the final image is processed. I’ve yet to send any results off for printing but I’ll do that soon once I’ve shot something worth the expense.
With the holders having sat around for over 10 years the light seals had sagged and caused a few light leaks, but I think I’ve fixed that now. The 11 year expired Era 100 Panchromatic Portrait film has thankfully worked perfectly. To keep things simple they’ve been developed in Tetenal Paranol S (a Rodinal copy) at 1:25 although back in the day I was using Moersh Tanol for Pt/Pd printing which scans well so I might try that. I have everything crossed for the ILFORD FP4 PLUS and HP5 PLUS stocks I still have. ILFORD are still doing their yearly ULF and odd sizes runs so I will have to get a couple of boxes of fresh film.
All in all I’ve been wanting to do this for a while but have found every excuse under the sun not too. Finally I have and I’m glad. Slowly starting back on the path of 10,000 hours towards some kind of Mastery. I fully appreciate I’m hugely fortunate to have had all this “lying” around and starting from scratch now would be nigh on impossible and extremely daunting, so perhaps I owe it to others and myself to crack on and see what I can create.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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