Great news, this morning I finally got to expose my first few sheets of Velvia 50. The day started out quite well, I lieu of the fact I don't yet have a focusing cloth my wife Christine kindly donated an old long black skirt....fully lined of course. I have to say it makes a fantastic make do Focusing cloth and worked really quite well (see photo's below). So the stage was set, a quick call last evening to a photographer friend saw us turning up at a very small local woods just before dawn. A quick scout around and I came across an interesting composition that would be quite challenging to focus on. In the pre-sunrise light I eagerly set up and came across the first issue of the day......not enough light to see the ground glass properly. No worries, time for a cuppa from the trusty Thermos. One cup of coffee later and I could just about make out the image on the glass enough for focusing. Second issue, I have not received the very nice x4 Nikon loupe I have ordered yet and x2 reading glasses are not quite up to the job. Luckily my friend has his loupe with him and so the stage was set.
Focus with the bellows.......a little asymmetric tilt on the rear standard......fine tune on the bellows....sorted. Close the shutter. Meter the scene at varying points and set the exposure 2 EVs under the highlights making sure the shadows did not fall below -4 EV. Re-meter the scene. Set the aperture and load the film holder into the rear of the camera. Check fire the shutter to make sure I've closed it after focusing. Set the shutter to manual and check my phone app to see how much time to add for reciprocity failure......metered time 15 sec, total exposure time needed.......24 seconds. Remove the darkslide, cock the shutter, press the shutter release and start my stopwatch simultaneously. watch closely.......tick,tick,tick....close shutter, job done. Like clockwork? maybe, I repeated this again with the film holder reversed (good job I did, more of which later) for a second exposure and then twice more shooting a vertical.
So...how was it you may ask? I can only describe it as awesome. The composition is not going to set the world alight but as the film stock in the holders is well past date I'm unsure of the outcome anyhow. The whole experience was very enlightening, the careful methodical way of working very relaxing, composing under the dark cloth really makes you feel at one with what your doing and I did not feel that even though the image is inverted it did not cause a moments worry. This is the very thing that has been missing for me....... a slow, methodical, thought provoking workflow that really makes me feel at one with my subject matter.
On arrival home I discovered two things.......first my film changing bag had arrived and secondly, when checking my kit before stowing it away found that all morning I had been metering for 100 asa not 50 asa like I should have been. That'll be 4 sheets of Velvia underexposed by one stop then........not quite...
I decided that I had best unload the 4 sheets of Velvia in the changing bag I had bought without delay. The bag come from Calumet and was a bit of a bargain really, pops up into a lightproof material box which I found has plenty of room to unload a couple of film holders in. Then we come back to the "not quite".......you see there was only 3 sheets of Velvia to unload, one side of one film holder was empty. As they came loaded I had no way of checking until the changing bag had arrived.
All in all I would count today as a real success, I've learnt that my 11 step checklist needs to become a 12 stepper.......how easy it is to set up the Chamonix provided you take your time and think through what you are doing. I've also learnt that unloading darkslides by feel alone is not much fun but not difficult to do.