Paper negatives

This week I went off on a bit of a tangent and bought a Calumet c-400 5×4 monorail camera. It was cheap, £75 including a Ross Xpress 5 1/2″ lens and spare lens boards. Put it down to a bad attack of nostalgia, I used 5×4 a lot years back.

Anyway 5×4 needs a slight change of mindset compared to smaller formats. I realised I would need to think about workflow and what results I want. Cost is also a factor. Shooting film and making darkroom prints are off the table for the moment. So I researched the paper negative route. Far simpler to achieve. I have loads of 10×8 Ilford Multigrade paper left over from my dalliance with higher education a few years ago. My downstairs cloakroom is easily made light tight with a piece of thick board at the little window. I have a red safelight, jugs, trays and timer retrieved from long slumber in the attic. I use my black and white film chemistry, stop, fix and even Rodinal developer. With my Rotatrim I cut each sheet of paper into four 5×4 sheets, though slicing a sliver off the long side helps with loading into double darkslides. I mixed the Rodinal 1:25 and worked out my exposure for 2 minute development. 

I set the camera up yesterday for a test run. The subject isn’t anything special. I was surprised how quickly it all came back to me. Camera movements, squinting at a dark, reversed and inverted subject, trying to focus. Remembering to close the shutter, stop down and putting the darkslide in properly, ah, memories.

Just one picture taken, but at least I know everything works.


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