Mistakes were made

I’m over half way through my first box of Arista Ortho Litho and I only have a few decent negatives to work with. In other words, a lot of mistakes were made. Here’s a brief run down.

  1. Used the wrong safelight
  2. Put the film in the film holder backwards
  3. Which meant it went into the development tank backwards
  4. Overdeveloped
  5. Underdeveloped
  6. Used too little developer
  7. Forgot which direction to move the fstop to let in more light
  8. Used exhausted fixer
  9. Forgot about bellows extension compensation

So now I know.


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!