10 Portraits on 4×5 Kodak Tri-X Sheet Film

I recently had the opportunity to do a program for the Professional Photographers of California’s Pro Photo Expo, which is their state convention, on how I’m still using film in my day to day portrait work.  Kodak Alaris was one of the sponsors of the convention and they were kind enough to send me 10 sheets  of Tri-X 4×5 sheet film so that I could produce some portraits on the material for my presentation.        

My program was about how I still use film and in an ever increasing amount over the past few years, and specifically in the 4×5 format and later this year to start using 8×10 format for the creation of my fine art black & white portraiture.  I’ve written before about how I love the entire process of working with film from loading the film holders all the way through popping the lid off the processing tank.

Especially with sheet film and how working with it specifically slows the photographer down to check and recheck compositions on the ground glass, the camera settings for aperture and shutter speed, ensuring the lens is closed and finally pulling the dark slide and remembering to return it with dark indictor out to indicate an exposed sheet of film.  However, sometimes accidents happen.  Many times I engage my subjects in conversation (ok I engage them all the time in conversations) it’s what I do.  Sometimes I get so engaged in the conversations I forget what I’m doing and screw up, which is not what I wanted to do with this gift of material from Kodak.  However the first sheet I exposed I did the inevitable and “screwed” it up, or perhaps I could say created a “happy accident” of a double exposure of an artist and the wall sized mural she is painting.

I then wanted to create a couple of portraits trying some new lighting techniques I’m working on where I’m flagging light on the highlight side of the face to add a bit of drama to the picture.  I thought very good friend of almost 30 years would be a perfect subject to try that on, and the fact he had a root canal a couple of hours prior to sitting for me added to the perfect expression.

I had also had a couple of photographer colleagues stop by the studio to discuss black and white film projects and using the old Graflex Speed Graphic cameras.  I talked one of them, actually both of them into sitting for me for a picture, but Sarah’s was who I made an image on the Tri-X material for the program project film.

My next couple of sheets were used for a very kind hearted gentleman whom portrays Papa Noel a.k.a Santa Clause as well as some other characters.  He rolled up in a red pickup truck with Santa License plates and I have to honestly believe and he’s the real deal.  Who knew he calls Northen Nevada home in the off season!

and to stay hidden in plain site his walking around clothes.

My good friend also brought along his kiddos, who are amazing swimmers, for a couple of portraits.  His son is on the lead picture of this post and this is his incredibly fast swimming daughter.  I wanted to add a bit of authenticity to the pictures so we sprayed them down with a water/glycerin concoction just prior to making the photographs.  I wanted to see how film would render the droplets and I was not disappointed.

The last two sheets of the material that Kodak sent to me were used on a couple of siblings who play instruments in a local high school marching band.  I had photographed the young lady earlier in the year and loved her expression and eyes, and her wonderful aged Tuba.  She just fell into a relaxed pose with the instrument as I was adjusting the lights and resetting the camera from images I had just made of her brother.  It just goes to show that candid moments, even though they are recorded at a much slower pace can be captured with a view camera and sheet film.

And her younger brother and his baritone.

I also wanted to thank Bay Photo Lab, who is not only my lab but whom I’m a sponsored speaker, for printing physical prints of these images for display during my program and to also showcase the wonder Kodak paper they were printed on.  If you are looking for a great great lab that prints on Kodak paper click the logo below and sign up for an account with Bay.  They have an amazing team and are a true partner for the photographer desiring to fulfill their vision to completion in the form of a print!

If you are interested in learning more about film please contact me to see when I’ll be doing my next presentation on how I use it, and in the mean time make sure you give Kodak Tri-X a try.  It’s been around for a long long time, and it’s a very forgiving yet high image quality material to work with!


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