Mother carrying son | 8×10″ sheet film wet mount scan on Epson V

Portra 160 (810)

This picture of my then one-year-old boy was among the first sheets I shot. It is not that easy using an 8×10″ large format camera to take a picture of a kid, and it requires a bit of preparing. I sat up the tripod and camera first, getting the light and background that I wanted. My wife then held him over her shoulder in front of the camera so I could focus. I made sure she knew how she was standing and how he was resting over her shoulder. I also made a mark where she was standing so she could stand at the exact same spot. When I had the composition I wanted, I loaded the camera with film. I then measured the light and that’s when it started to get tricky.

I don’t recall the exact settings I used but I do remember finding it difficult to choose shutter and aperture. Preferably I’d have more light but I didn’t. Depth of field can be a challenge when shooting large format, and as you can see it’s only his left eye that’s sharp. Looking back, maybe I should have chosen a smaller aperture to get more depth of field. However, at the time I was anxious about him moving too much for a longer shutter speed causing motion blur instead. Therefore, I chose a shutter speed I felt comfortable with – setting the aperture according to that and hoped for him to be at the same spot as he was when I focused… Might not have been the best idea, had he moved just a tiny bit one way or the other both eyes could have been out of focus.

It was also a little bit tricky to redo the composition, as one cannot see through the lens once the camera is loaded with film. They were at the same spot, while I was standing at the side of the camera pointing at the lens trying to get my soon to look into it. He did, and I took the shot. I see now that they should have been more at the center, alternatively I could crop it into a square, but as of now, I’ll keep it as it is. I like his facial expression, it is not one you will see very often on him – he looks a bit skeptical pushing his jaw slightly outwards.

There is a few things I’d like to mention on the technical side of the scanning process though. It might be of interest for others considering wet scanning 8×10″ sheet negatives directly on the scanner bed of an Epson V700. First, when I saw my first scan of this negative, and that was just a test scan, I knew I was hooked on large format. The tonality and feel of the photograph amazed me. I found it to be wonderful. I know, it’s my son in that photo and that probably affects my judgement, but keep in mind, I got a bunch of photos of him shot digitally – I prefer this one. I knew there would be a risk of Newton rings, especially on color film, so I had gotten an anti-newton-ring glass to avoid them. I got pretty disappointed when I discovered that it didn’t get rid of them. I tried several different kinds of ANR-glass, taping the negative to the bed, emulsion side in whatever direction… and what not. Nothing really worked. It was just one headache after another. I couldn’t use the Epson wet mount tray either, as this is not big enough for 8×10″ negatives. And even though Epson doesn’t recommend it, I saw no other way to scan 8×10″ than to do a wet scan directly on the scanner bed.

Here is what I did to do a wet scan:

– taped all four sides with scan mounting tape to seal the scanner.

– put on the film area guide.

– put on the scanning fluid (like a lying H).

– put on negative (emulsion side down) slowly from bottom to top in a bow (I do this part quite carefully and accurate to avoid air-bubbles).

After this you are supposed to put on more scanning fluid and then Mylar. Because the Mylar might accidentally cover the calibration area of the scanner (at the top of the scanner bed) I couldn’t be bothered to. Instead I:

– (remove film area guide).

– remove tape at top, because this might also interfere with the calibration area and that caused some blue streaks across the picture.

– clean calibration area with a towel or whatever – the scanning fluid is flammable so do avoid getting it into your scanner.

– scan.

And voilà, I got my first Newton ring free scan. Now, keep in mind that it might be useful to use Mylar. If fluid reaches the upside of the negative, covering a corner of it, a line might or might not show at the edge of the fluid (in the scan). I have experienced both… but as long as I can get away with it, I’ll skip it. Another thing, I might be the only one, but I wish I practiced these things with a negative that was unimportant. I was so eager to scan this particular negative successfully – I ended up fumbling around with it too much. If you zoom in you will see there is a lot of dust on it, and that is dust I’ve managed to polish into the negative (yes I am aware now – dusting too much is possible). At one point after too much cleaning, I thought I had actually ruined it. Usually I don’t use the auto dust features when scanning, but I did now. After that I still had to remove dust digitally myself, but after an hour I couldn’t be bothered anymore. Lesson learned. Luckily the negative was salvageable.

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