Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Doug's Mercedes, New Orleans, LA Decemeber 1981

When I first started shooting 4x5 in the mid-70's, the only real choice of films were either made by Kodak or Ilford or Agfa. However, it had only been a few years since Ansco had quit making film, and there were still stocks of their Versapan around -- truly one of the great films for use with the Zone System. If I remember correctly I purchased several hundred sheets from Freestyle Camera in Los Angeles. It was already several years out of date and had lost considerable speed. But it was a film that just did not fog easily no matter the development. The other truly great Zone film was Kodak Super Pan Press, Type B, but it had been discontinued by that time. Versapan in its day was a high silver content film and could handle N-4 to N+4 development. It was a great film for doing "snot" development, also. Most of the time I developed Versapan in D-23, N was 7 minutes at 70F (according to my notes). However my favorite thing to do was to take my much used and almost exhausted D-23 that I have saved, and do "snot" developments on Versapan. The developments would range from 1 hour up to 24-hours. The attached image was shot on Christmas morning in 1981, and it is the hood of my brother's new light beige Mercedes 240D. The humidity in New Orleans that morning was 110% -- at least -- and the dew was extremely heavy. I set up my Cambo with its wide angle bellows and put the 90mm f/5.6 Super Angulon on it. I had to stand on a small step ladder in order to see my ground glass, and at the same time be careful to not bump the car; 1) because my brother would have taken a baseball bat to my knees if I had put a single scratch on that new car, 2) I didn't want to drag my focusing cloth accidentally across the droplets and ruin the time, and 3) bumping the car might cause all those droplets to run together destroying the image. My light meter told me there was less than on stop difference between the brights part of the big drops and the darkest area I could find to read. Mmmmmmm, definitely a "snot" situation. My records indicate four hours in the used D-23 with constant agitation. No, I wasn't using a JOBO in those days. What I did pre-JOBO for such long developments was use a standard "clam-shell" paper safe, and processed one sheet of film at a time. I knew from what the literature at the time stated, you only needed to agitate continuously for the first hour, and then several minutes every 15-minutes. The resulting negative looks and prints almost as if it were a normal negative. The extreme fall-off in the corners is two-fold; 1) the natural vignetting of the 90mm Super Angulon (I don't own a center filter), 2) the extreme development exaggerates the vignetting, and 3) the hood of the car is rounded to the corners. I remember it was hell getting it all in focus. Funny how when you get a great negative, it scans almost perfectly. I had to do very little work on the resulting scan which made a great print on Ilford's Gold Fiber Silk. Oh, BTW, "snot" develpment is a term I made up to mean develop the snot out the film.

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