Gillespie Bridge / Dam - First adventures in 4x5

Paul Taylor

Well-Known Member
After I got my large format kit all together I drove down to Gillespie dam/bridge in AZ. Was my first time out with the camera, and I didn't have any issues with it - it was actually my developing tank that I had issues with. I used a Stearman SP455 and the dividers left oblong marks on the negatives - despite them being loaded correctly (emulsion side out.) Seems this isn't an uncommon issue and I have modified the holders a bit to see if it resolves the problem as well as bought a Jobo reel/tank for 4x5 just in case. Anyhows, I had once decent shot out of the 5 I took - the rest were ruined by the tank issue. This one has some weirdness in the top corner but I can fix that.



The F.64 bag that can hold the thing.


I have 4 more shots I took at a local park- just need to scan them. While the compositions are crap - it was more just test shots to make sure I was metering correctly with the new-to-me Minolta Spotmatic. Negatives look good though.
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Nice one, @Paul Taylor! I like the composition and the tonal range you got. Not only the bridge itself, but also the landscape beneath it (the vegetation, the tyre tracks, the graffiti) tell a richly detailed story. I also find the photos documenting the shooting set very interesting. I know nothing about film photography, so I'm not able to say a word about it, but nevertheless I find the whole thing quite fascinating.
Very nice, Sir.
Just curious.. how does it compare weight-wise to a wooden baseboard type of view camera?
Very nice, Sir.
Just curious.. how does it compare weight-wise to a wooden baseboard type of view camera?
The Toyo is quite a bit heavier/larger. With a lens it should be in the 12lbs for just the camera. By the time i have it in the backpack, with the monorails, 5 or so loaded film carriers, light meter, stop watch, filter system, tripod, etc - probably looking at close to 25lbs. Luckily the backpack has wide straps and it feels much lighter.

I had done a bunch of research previous to me lucking into the Toyo - and the intrepids seemed a bit fragile / robust and I didn't want to deal with vintage cameras that were partially wood so I really got lucky finding my 45G (I wasn't planning on buying any large format for a while - but the Toyo popped up on marketplace new-in-box.....)

I like that it is built like a tank, and all the adjustments are geared and precise. Also, after seeing many people struggle with dropping film carriers and ground glass on cameras like Intrepids - I really like how positive and robust the rotating film holder/back is. It feels like a proper peice of machinery when you use it.
Yes, I can imagine it's a really nice solid, precise piece of kit. I did once dip my toe in the LF pool in the form of an MPP monorail. It was lovely but a bit of a tank and I sadly never got beyond using the 6x9 reducing back before getting cold feet. I'm not sure I was really ready for it at the time. Maybe now I'd feel different about it.
I look forward to seeing more of your work.
I disagree with your assessment of the composition, Paul. There's a wonderful contrast between the straightness in the architecture of the bridge and the seeming chaos of the tire tracks below. Two different life styles, two different destinations...though in truth we all have the same destination.
I wonder what film stock and developer you used Paul? Very pleasing tonality. Somehow that seems a feature of large format film - maybe I'm just jealous. ;)

P.S. I'll guess FP4+... just a stab in the dark.

Close! It was Ilford HP5+.

I use HP5 for just about all my test shots, as I use Cinestill DF96 Monobath to develop as it is super easy being once chemical. When I ran the first roll through my FujiGS645W medium format with the same film stock and developer I noticed it had really nice tonality. Both the 4x5 and 120 have finer/sharper images than 35mm and I think it is due to grain density if that is a thing? 35mm looks quite different.

Both the Fuji and the Contax have quite accurate meters - and both have really nice glass (The Fuji GS645w is well known for it's lens - and I use a Vario-Sonnar T 28-85 Contax / Ziess on the Contax RX.) The 4x5 was spot metered in shadows and highlights with my Minolta SpotMeter F.

For example, here is the first test shot with my Fuji medium format - same stock and developer, same scanning technique for the 120 and 35mm (Epson V550 / Negative Lab Pro) and the 4x5 was DSLR scanned - but everything was ran through Negative Lab Pro.


And this is a shot with the same stock, developed & scanned with the same stuff - from my 35mm Contax RX


I like HP5 in medium and large - not particularly in 35mm.
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Close! It was Ilford HP5+.
Ha! :) I'm familiar with HP5+... should have got that. But I've only shot in 35mm, and it does indeed make a difference. I think grain density is the thing. Your 35mm shot looks much more familiar.
Cinestill DF96 Monobath
I used that to start with (couple of years and 8 or so rolls of HP5+ ago) as it was easy, and it worked well too. I've now 'progressed' to Ilford ID11 and possibly like it a little better, but actually not sure tbh.

I don't do enough film shooting to be really good at it I think.