I shot a personal project at Reykjavík Folk Festival 2014. I wanted to challenge myself to create a portrait series using a vintage camera format—a 1940s Graflex Speed Graphic 4×5. I integrated Fuji instant film and modern Speedlite flashes into my setup. Everything was done in-camera. Hit the jump to view the series plus extra images and notes about my process.
I used a 1940s Graflex Speed Graphic 4×5. Every mechanism of the Speed Graphic is manual. It forces you to slow things down and consider every aspect of your shot before clicking the shutter, which is a beautiful thing.
I was set up in a small room on-site at the venue. For my key light, I used a Yongnuo YN560-II speedlite with a Westcott 43” umbrella. It was placed in a reflective position with the black cover on. I closed it down somewhat to help to keep light from bouncing around. My rim light was another Yongnuo speedlite with an Opteka 1/8” grid. I set my camera’s leaf shutter to 1/400 to help knock down the ambient light.
I shot with Fuji FP-100C instant film held in a Polaroid 405 film back. Fuji FP-100C creates an instant positive print same as Polaroid film. I saved the negative side of the film in order to reclaim a negative through a simple bleaching process. First I let the negatives dry overnight. Then I secured them to a small piece of glass (emulsion side down) with electrical tape. I found the glass for free at a local recycling center.
I used standard household bleach and applied a very small amount to each negative.
Close-up of bleach reacting with the film. I moved the bleach around for a minute or so and made sure it cleared all the black stuff. Then I rinsed each negative with cold water.
A batch of cleared negatives.
Negatives hung up to dry in my bathroom. After I cleared and dried all the negatives, I made scans at a local photography store. I imported the files into Lightroom where I did very minor adjustments such as B&W conversion.
The process was more tedious than my normal digital workflow but it was a really fun experience! The images aren’t perfect but they’re one-of-a-kind. I look forward to integrating this format into future projects.
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