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Xray Film, Ringlights and Flowers


snapshot of 8x10 negative
 At my school darkroom where I work I came in on my day off to play. I've had an idea of something I've wanted to try for a long time. The idea would take a few things I can't easily put together. Patience, time, room to photograph, and room to develop right next door. Yesterday the stars aligned.

Here's the deal. Xray film is cheap. It has a unique look due to it's orthochromatic character. Ortho films aren't sensitive to red light. So two factors should be clear: you can develop under a red safelight, kinda like paper. And that any red in your motiv will be rendered dark.

I recently bought a beautiful Componon-S factory mounted in a shutter from a friend. Normally lenses of this sort are used for enlarging. But such lenses are also well suited for closeups. This lens has a 49mm filter thread, and I have the adapter to my cheap Vivitar ring flash.

 What I ended up doing was setting up two large format cameras: a 4x5 and an 8x10. Both without tripods, simply lying on the tabletop in our classroom at Mills Photo.  For both cameras I placed the subject, a dried bunch of flowers in a bunson burner test tube holder and pointed a bright LED flashlight right at the subject to focus. I then racked out the bellows until the flower was about the right magnification.

snapshot of 8x10 negative

In our film room I setup the only flat bottom trays I could find (most X-ray films are double sided and scratch easily in normal ribbed trays). There I tried our new HC-110 knockoff, L-110 at our normal dilution (1:9 from stock). I setup a safelight right next to the developing tray and left the overhead red LED saflight on. Developing by inspection, it looked like 3.5 6 minutes worked best. 

The 4x5's seemed a little scratched up. I'm not sure if by cutting them or what. But the 8x10's seemed to fair ok. 

The overall look of the images seemed to be just what I hoped for. There's a unique look of what happens when flowers colors change from red to something else rendered on ortho film. That couples with the shaddowless nature of a ringlight and fairly contrasty film/development to really snap into place. I hope to try again today. 

snapshot of 8x10 negative

Thanks for reading!

(as always, photos and words and copyright michael halberstadt)


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