Sunday, my friend and I went to Joshua Tree National Park to photograph the Lunar Eclipse. Continuing with my current trend in exploring new avenues of photography, rather than take my big telephoto lenses and digital camera for close up lunar photos, I decided to take only my 4×5 rail camera for the night.
My first step was to remember how to load film backs! It’s been a while. Over a decade really. I was going to load some black and white film, but I don’t have any developer for film yet, only for paper so I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to see how the Harmon Direct Positive paper does with landscapes. I loaded some backs and threw in my Polaroid 545 and some really expired Polaroid and Readyload transparency for good measure and off we went.
The first thing I noticed, I forgot the whole point of view cameras. I had it all set up and was ready to go and then realized, you’re an idiot, the whole point of large format, other than the big sheet, is that you can do perspective and focus control. I on the other hand and pointed it up at an angle and left it all at zero. Ok start over! Slowly it came back to me and I started dialing it in nicely.
I think at that point I started to notice that everyone else in the area kept giving me funny looks. What’s wrong with this guy, doesn’t he know we use Digital now? I threw my dark cloth over my head and continued!
I noticed another thing. Once the sun starts going down, it’s pretty much impossible to focus the camera, dark cloth and loupe or no.
Luckily, I managed to take three successful Polaroids! It was anyone’s guess if they’d work since the stuff was about 15 years out of date. Thankfully they did and I’m very pleased with the results!
In between Polaroids, I also loaded a couple of my backs in the camera and exposed some of the Harmon paper so I could process that later. I had no idea what would or wouldn’t work because I was working with their guidelines that it’s roughly ISO 3 Paper, and that they recommended pre-flashing. I was dealing with very long exposures so really it was a complete shot in the dark, almost literally as to what would happen. I bracketed a few sheets and called it a day.
Thankfully they too worked out. Out of the four sheets I exposed, two of them have nice images on them and two were extremely contrasty and not to my liking. I think my perfect exposure would have been in between the two I’ve posted here, but overall it was a success for having so many unknown variables.