My Medium Format Journey Part 3.

It’s been a few weeks since I penned the last part of my Medium Format Journey, and you could be forgiven for thinking I’d given up, or that the project had hit some terrible problem and come to a premature end. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that I’ve been so involved in the project that I’ve had little time to write it up.

In the previous episode I had just spent my first full day in the field with my Mamiya 645 medium format camera, and exposed two roles of film, one of Fuji Velvia 100 and the other of Provia 100. This gave me 30 images, or rather it gave me two rolls of film which potentially held 30 images, 15 on each.

The next step of the journey was to make those latent images visible to the eye. After all, If I had made some silly mistake in the field I might not have had anything. That’s one difference between film and digital which makes it more interesting. There is simply no way of checking on the day what images you’ve made. No ‘chimping’ at the screen on the back of the camera, and while you could take lots of images at different exposures to make sure, that soon starts to get expensive. With film around £5.50 a roll, the cost per image soon starts to add up.

Since my last foray into medium format in the 1970’s you can no longer get 120 roll film processed at your local high street chemist, but there are a multitude of labs advertising their services on the internet, and like so many things on the web, picking one can be a difficult job. I had previously used Peak Imaging in Sheffield to do digital printing and been impressed with their quality and service. There seemed to be enough good reviews about their film processing to convince me that they could be a good choice, so I posted my film off to them and waited.

Two days later I returned from work to find a cardboard package on the door mat. I think the last time I opened a package with as much trepidation was when I got my O level results. In just the same way, it could be a total failure, or not what I was hoping for.

I needn’t have worried. Holding the enclosed strips of film up to the light I was amazed at what I saw. Having never seen medium format transparencies before I don’t think I was quite prepared for the brightness of the images or the depth of the colours displayed. However holding them up to the light didn't really reveal the full picture as it were. A quick investigation of the price of a light box ruled that out, but an internet search revealed I could get an app for my tablet which turned it into a light box for free!. That was much better.

Now whilst medium format negatives are visible to the naked eye in a much better way than 35 mm, they aren’t of course prints and there’s no real way of sharing them with others, unless I wanted to bore family and friend with an interminable slide show. The next leg of the journey will involve turning the transparency into a useful photograph.