First Shots: Still Life

It’s been brutally cold here to start the new year so I haven’t felt like going outside to test film. So I set up a quick still life in my studio and shot a few test shots.



Oooh now that’s the orthochromatic goodness I was looking for.

The subject was a flower arrangement that my wife had put together with a red bird of paradise, a few dark red roses, and lots of greens. I expected the blue-sensitive film would make the reds oranges and greens black.


File Jan 08, 5 25 57 PM.jpeg
iPhone shot for comparison

I shot 6 shots at ISO 6. Most of them were wide open (f6.8), but I did try some at higher f-stops (f11 and f22).


Development seemed ok as the scans came out with some good detail. I can’t wait to get these into the darkroom to make some prints.



The One Project: One Camera, One Film, One Developer

I admit it: I have a few cameras. OK, over the past few years, I have been getting a LOT of cameras. A metric shit-ton of cameras. I also have a freezer full of film of all speeds and types. And developers? I’ve tried a few. So, a new year means a new project. For the next 6 months, I am going to commit to using just one camera, one film, and one developer.  (Caveat: I will continue to do the Coffee with Friends project. So sue me.) It will be hard, but I know I can do this. And in the end, hopefully, I will have learned something.

The Camera

This was not an easy decision. I have some strong feelings about some of my cameras. And there are a number that I really want to spend quality time with. But in the end, I settled on my Graflex Crown Graphic.


The chosen one


the Crown Graphic has a lot going for it. For one, it’s large format, something I am least familiar with so there will be a lot to learn over the 6 months. Also, unlike 35mm, the large format will force me to take fewer shots. I’ll have to slow down and think about each shot. Finally, I can make contact prints with this format so I can explore alternative processes, like Van Dyke printing.

The downside to the Crown Graphic is that I can’t be as spontaneous as I am with the box cameras like the Diana or the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. That’s definitely something I will miss.

The Film

Interestingly, the choice of film is what actually sealed the deal for the Crown Graphic. I have been using Svema MZ-3 film over the last few years in my 35 mm cameras. It’s a low ISO, orthochromatic film that was not originally designed for still photography. I really like this film and was hoping to use something like it in this project. Unfortunately, it is only available in 35 mm and I absolutely did not want to use a 35 mm camera. I started looking around at other orthochromatic films. The choices are limited, especially in medium format. But I did find Arista Ortho Litho Film 3.0 in 4×5 for incredibly cheap.


At $22.99 for 100 sheets, this film seems like a great bargain. Of course, I haven’t shot any yet so we will have to see.


With the camera and film determined, the choice of a developer was pretty easy. Everything I read online suggested that for continuous tone you should go with Dektol diluted 1+30. So that’s what I’m doing.

FullSizeRender.jpgIt looks like I’ll have a gallon of Dektol to play with.

Next Steps

So that’s my project for the next 6 months. I am going to first test the film speed ala Ansel Adams. And then start shooting. I will be posting results here as I go so stay tuned!