Yesterday I finally got out into the hills to conduct the first field test of my 4×5. I loaded up my jeep and headed into the Sierras. I quickly realized that my next purchase needs to be a bag of some kind to safely house all my large format gear. Lugging cardboard boxes back and forth really doesn’t cut it!
For the sake of brevity, I made about a dozen exposures and called it a day, returning home to process the film.
I loaded four sheets into my Omega tank – taco style – and mixed up a liter of Caffenol C-H. I processed in the same manner that has been very successful with my 35mm experiments. Here is what I got:
The last film with the dark “gradient” is the film I cracked open in daylight just to convince myself that I loaded the holders correctly.
I successfully developed two films a few days ago, so I’m pretty sure there isn’t some drastic equipment problem – I know this camera is functional.
I focused carefully on the ground glass, so I can rule out having left the lens caps on. I could possibly have forgotten to pull out the dark slides, but I distinctly recall having done it – and replacing them.
The two successful films were developed in Rodinal rather than Caffenol. I may have a bad batch of developer?
To test this hypothesis I sacrificed a sheet of film and developed a test piece in the very developer I used on the blank sheets.
It came out nice and black, proving that it wasn’t the result of bad chemistry. Additionally, the film I “peeked” on has a completely exposed area that developed normally. It seems that the “process” is ok, for some reason the film wasn’t exposed properly? Or some other issue?
It seems like I should have gotten SOME image if I had just way underexposed, but these films are totally blank – except for the “peeker.”
My plan is to shoot another two test film in the backyard – very deliberately and carefully, ensuring that there aren’t any dumb mistakes confounding me. I’ll develop the first in Rodinal again to guarantee that the chemistry is not to blame. If that turns out ok I’ll develop the other in Caffenol and see what I get. If that looks good then I think the only explanation is that I somehow developed films that were never exposed in the first place. Seems far-fetched, but stranger things have happened.