Handling exposed film the field.

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Another first-timer question . . .

To begin my experiments with the 4x5 camera, I will only be working with two film holders, and reloading in the field. I plan on bringing a change bag into the field with me for reloading and I'm wondering how you experts handle the exposed film? Is there a portable "film safe" available that's small enough for a change bag, or perhaps I could load the exposed film directly into the development tubes I saw at Darkroom Innovations?

-- Keith A. Dunlop (kdun@gte.net), December 11, 2000


The box in which the film comes is perfectly lightproof. If you don't have an empty box yet, to distinguish between exposed and unexposed, you can leave the unexposed sheets in the foil wrapper and put the exposed sheets outside. Or you can ask your local lab for an empty box.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (qtl@ai.sri.com), December 11, 2000.

Never throw away your old film boxes. They're perfect for transporting exposed (as well as unexposed) film.

-- Chad Jarvis (cjarvis@nas.edu), December 11, 2000.

Just a few comments from my own experience when I started working with large format 3 years ago. Using a changing bag outside, particularly when you are hot and sweaty, is not much fun. If you get very frustrated at all, you may get dust in it and on the unexposed film. Just a few more film holders, enough for a day's work, will put a smile on your face. Use the boxes as suggested above. If you use zone system, label them N+1, N-1, N, etc and unload the shots to be developed that way at the same time. You can mark the holders in pencil lightly and erase if you don't want to use a notebook. Don't put the N and the N-1, etc boxes in the bag at the same time or you will eventually get them all mixed up. When traveling, try to get a motel room with an inside bathroom, turn off the room lights, and light proof with towels, and dispense with the ^%&&^*(* changing bag. If you put film directly in the BTZS tubes, you will very quickly come to a halt because you won't get around to developing as quickly as you think. And holders are cheaper than tubes. Old used holders are usually a very bad bargain.

-- John Sarsgard (sarsgard@yahoo.com), December 11, 2000.

On trips I carry several black lightproof bags such as are used for boxes of photographic paper with cardboard inserts and a spare film box or two. I bring enough holders for the shooting I plan to do and change film in a closet or bathroom back at the place I'm staying. I mark each bag for processing variations and keep them inside the boxes. If you don't have enough spare bags from printing, you can get them from B&H, packaged by Delta.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), December 11, 2000.

A vote for changing tents, at least for the Harrison pup tent! Large enough for me to use easily for 8 X 10, small enough that it takes up very little room in a backpack. I've used it many times in direct sunlight without ever a problem. I take this every time I travel. Not every hotel room (esp. overseas) will have an area dark enough to change safely, and I for one got sick of curling up in wardrobes and hanging quilts over desks in un-airconditioned rooms! I just don't find I get extra dust with this (although some complain of it). Although I've never used a changing bag, as easy as the tent seems to me, I've got to assume it's nicer than a bag, given how people seem to hate the bags.

Just a thought,


-- Nathan Congdon (ncongdon@jhmi.edu), December 11, 2000.

I, too would encourage you to acquire a few more holders. Everyone's shooting style differs a little, but when you're just beginning, you might want to make several exposures of the same scene so you can experiment with exposure and development. Changing bags are more often than not, dust bags. I don't recommend them at all. When I travel, I usually stay in motels and inquire about the bathroom having a window. I can douse the room lights at night, pull a desk chair up to the vanity, close the door and go about the process of loading and unloading. In a really cramped room, I've closed the lid on the commode, removed the towels from on or over the tank, straddled the lid and used the tank surface as a work table. I wipe everything down to get rid of towel lint and sometimes even run the shower for a minute or two to "rinse" the airborne dust down to the floor. This technique has worked so well, I rarely have dust problems on film. When there's no bathroom and I need to change film, I carry a Harrison changing tent. I keep it in its cover and never open it unless there is no other choice. I also enter it bare armed so I don't drag lint from clothing inside. Those extra boxes mentioned by others is a good idea. I print up labels with my computer and even draw a little diagram of what I unloaded in each box. For example, holder # (I number each side), emulsion up, last exposure on top, N, N+1, etc. Putting each loaded holder in a zip lock bag with another label that has all the exposure and subject info will help you transcribe this valuable data later on. I even record the date and time of day so I can calculate where I need to be and when if I return to that location on a subsequent trip. Welcome to the wonderful world of LF and best of luck.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (info@razeichner.com), December 11, 2000.

The Harrison Pup tent is the way to go! Excellent product, reasonable weight.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (gkroeger@trinity.edu), December 11, 2000.

I concur with all of the above. I use a cheapo changing tent for 8x10 and it's not always easy to manipulate holders and boxes and film. Once during a moonless night in the desert I changed film inside my camper without any bad effects. On an extended trip, I use an old film box to store shot film. I have several folders and use a series of notches on each folder to indicate N, N-1,N+1, etc.

-- Bruce Schultz (schultzredfish@aol.com), December 12, 2000.

I have to agree with the comments for the Harrison Tents. If you don't need to travel light (working near a car) then get the larger one (the medium sized one). It's very roomy, makes film loading easy and dust free, and is not that much more expensive than the pup tent. I can put 20+ 4x5 holders into the tent at a time, so I can shoot without needing to change holders for a whole day, unless I've had a very busy day. It will accomodate 8x10 holders without problem, and with the custom extension pouch that Camera Essentials will put on the tent, you can use the tent for larger holders yet (7x17 etc.)

I regularly set up the tent at a roadside rest stop to change holders, and while I normally try to avoid direct sun, I have never had any light leak problems. I avoid direct sun more so that the tent won't heat up than for fear of light leaks.

For a beginner, you may only shoot 4 sheets of film in an outing to start, but I would be suprised if there will be times that you will want to shoot more because of the lighting conditions, or the arrangement of subject material speaks to you, or whatever. For another $35-40 per pair I would recommend you get some more holders. You won't want to change film holders in the middle of a shooting session because it'll ruin the flow and mood of the process. Even if you buy only two more holders, it'll give you 8 shots...

I only shoot chromes with the 4x5, so I go through a lot more film than I do with the 8x10 or 7x17 cameras (Bracketing, mostly). If I were shooting B&W with the 4x5, I think I would carry 8-10 holders for a day of shooting.

-- Michael Mutmansky (psu4ever@ix.netcom.com), December 13, 2000.

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