More Specifics about Technique

I shoot with a Mamiya C220 twin lens reflex camera mounted on a sturdy Bogen Manfroto tripod. I use older chrome model Mamiya lenses, preferring the 2.8 80mm lens, which is a close equivalent to a 50mm lens on a 35mm SLR. I also use a slightly wider angle 3.5 65mm lens. With these older uncoated optics, lens hoods are a must in order to minimize lens flare, especially when shooting near overhead lights. I also have a newer 105mm telephoto. It has a non-functioning shutter speed adjustment, but since I only use the B stop, it is ideal for night photography. I use a high quality Nikon locking cable release, which is easier to use than the inexpensive release with thumb-screw locks. When I travel, I use a post-war (WW2) Zeiss Ikon Nettar. It is a classic compact German folding camera in the 6x6 format I favor with a 4.5 75mm Novar lens. This is the camera I used when I went to Spain.

Time exposures seemed to be complicated when I first started photographing at night. I couldn't get accurate meter readings because of reciprocity failure in the film, but the more I photographed, I found I had learned to estimate my exposures based on the lighting present to get a good negative. I don't always guess right, so I bracket my exposures over and under my base exposure approximately 50%. Sometimes it is difficult to see my subject in the dim waist-level finder, so I prop my 7 megapixel digital camera on top of the TLR and take a photo. The small LCD screen lets me estimate the field of view in relation to the TLR and helps me visualize the lighting.

My film is Tri-X Pro. I try and shoot at f/8 (best aperture for my lens), and the exposure times might vary from 1 minute to 15 minutes. For a brightly lit street scene, the base exposure might be 3 minutes, and the bracket would be 1 minute, and 5 minutes. I look for good shadow detail without over exposed highlights in my negatives. I am using a developer recipe I found many years ago for low light level situations. The recipe came out of the Compact Photo Lab Index, a photographic processes guide that was published in 1979 by Morgan and Morgan. I use Edwals FG-7 mixed 1:15 with a 9% solution of sodium sulfite. The sodium sulfite helps maintain shadow detail without overdeveloping the highlights. My negatives have a long tonal range. The 9% solution is made by measuring out the sodium sulfite in 1oz. liquid measure and dissolving it in 16 oz. of water. My film is processed for 10 minutes at 70 degrees F. I have looked for a modern equivalent of that lab book, but have yet to find one.

I make my own prints on IlfordWarmtone. I used Agfa papers for many years, before making the switch in late 2005, since Agfa closed down. I use a Beseler 23 IIC with a standard condenser head.

Kai at work at the Georgia Pacific Site, Bellingham, 2005
photo by Virginia Yamada.