Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Could've had a V8," Deardorff that is!

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I just completed a class entitled Photo Communication Concepts. One of the objectives was to explore non-traditional methods of photography and image production, in other words, “Put down that damn DSLR and do something you haven’t done before.” Some of my classmates chose to shoot with plastic Holga’s and cross-processed film, one shot with nothing but a fish-eye lens, another shot Polaroid and one shot with his iPhone and experimented with various photo apps. I chose to shoot with the schools 8x10 Deardorff  V8* and make contact prints using some type of alternative process.

 Reserving the Deardorff was not a problem, no one else wanted to use it. I checked it out from the equipment cage only to find that there where no film holders! Quick check at the B&H website and one holder is going for $200!  I was okay with paying $100 for 20 sheets of film but I couldn’t justify buying the holders as well. My initial thought was to just shoot 4x5 but I didn’t want to let the Deardorff go that easily.

I posted an injury on Facebook figuring it was a long shot. Much to my surprise one of my friends had a dozen 8x10 holders that had been left behind at his rental studio years ago. He was happy to lend them to me, as he wasn’t using them. Who said social media was nothing but a waste of time? I loaded the holders with Ilford HP5 and was off.   

The Deardorff is heavy and cumbersome, so I decided to try it out close to home. As subject matter, I once again chose my neighbor’s old Dodge that is permanently parked at end of our street. I know the old car well; I’ve studied its curves and lines from many angles and in all types of light. It is patient; it does not care how long I fumble around with tilts, shifts and swings, it will not complain. Above all it is trust worthy; if I fail to get what I need today it will be there for me tomorrow and the day after, and the day after that. I made eight exposures and headed for the darkroom.

I don’t have 8x10 hangers or a processing tank deep enough so I processed the film one sheet at a time in 11x14 trays. It took awhile but eventually they were all processed and hung to dry. I thought the negatives looked a little dense but I hadn’t processed film in a while and wasn’t use to looking at negatives that large anyway. It wasn’t until the next day when I made contact proofs that realized the film had been fogged on the edges. There had been a light leak somewhere. The shots taken with the telephoto lens were fogged the most. The obvious suspect was the camera bellows.

 I took the camera into the darkroom, removed the back and extended the bellows. Running a flashlight inside the camera I was able to find two pinholes, both in the corners, on the top left side of the bellows, one in front and one in the back. This explained why the negatives shot with the telephoto had more fogging; the bellows had been extended further exposing both holes.

 After some online research I opted to use liquid electrical tape to repair the holes. Liquid electrical tape would fill the holes and when dry would be opaque but still pliable. I inserted a needle into each of the pinholes then coated the shaft of the needle inside the bellows, with liquid electrical tape. I then removed the needles slowly. Just to be safe I brushed some liquid on the outside corners as well. The trick to using liquid electrical tape is to pour a small amount into a container and wait awhile for it to begin to congeal; otherwise it’s too runny. If you use this repair method be sure you buy black as it comes it several different colors but the can looks the same. The color is marked at the top of the packaging.

I waited 24 hours for the repairs to dry then went back to Gus’s Dodge to recreate the shots that had been fogged. The repair worked, this time the negatives were gorgeous!

* V for view camera, 8 for 8x10 as Deardorff  also manufactured, a 5x7 and a 4x5 version, affectionately know as the "Baby Deardorff." 

In my next post I’ll write about my experience printing these negatives using the cyanotype process.