Koreshan State Historical Site – Estero, Florida – Large Format Photography

It’s always great to see old technology that has stood the test of time. In a world where things are only made to last a certain amount of time and then they are discarded, makes it difficult to find a way for future generations to see how they got to where they are. Recently, I made a trip to Koreshan State Historical Site in Estero, Florida. I have photographed here many times before and tried different photographic techniques.

My first trip is where I used “fusion”, I bracketed the exposures on a tripod and then used exposure fusion to get the best parts of each frame. This gave satisfactory results at the time. Then I took my lighting gear down and used off camera flashes. This really gave a snappy result and I made a few prints from that visit. It’s great to create the photo in the camera and do very little Photoshop.

For my most recent trip, I took the Zone VI 8×10 camera down. I had four sheet of Ilford FP4+ that is rated at 125 ISO. Knowing that I only had four clicks, I wanted to make them count. I was in luck as they were demonstrating how the wood shop and electrical generator worked. I used my iPhone to capture some video of this. After the demo was over and most of the folks dispersed, I set up the camera and started.

I started with the wood shop first. I used the Artist’s Viewfinder app on my iPhone to find my composition. Once I did, I went through the process of setting up the camera and figuring out the exposure. This was new for me as the interior of the wood shop was really dark. It was about 1:00 so the midday sun was pouring through the windows. This was going to be a very high dynamic range photo. In the back of my mind, I kept the slogan that I have been told many times from film photographers before me, “Expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights”. I made notes on these two values. For the wood shop exposure the meter read 30 seconds. However, with reciprocity built in, I was at 2:23. This wasn’t too bad. All I was worried about was the wind coming along and nudging the camera. I was able to make the exposure in-between the gusts.

For the generator area, it was totally inclosed and very dark. I had visions of this taking hours. I was relieved when the meter told me it was going to only take two minutes. But wait…there’s reciprocity that has to be built in. Two minutes became TWENTY MINUTES. OK, no problem. At least I was indoors, buffered from the wind and hoped that no one would really care. I started the first exposure and half way through someone walked through the frame. I wasn’t too worried as I figured with a really long exposure, they wouldn’t even show up, and they didn’t.

Then it was time to actually develop the film. Since I calculated the dynamic range, I was prepared to adjust the development time. The wood shop was eight stops and the generator room was ten. I was asking a lot from the film. One of the best developers that I have found thus far for my type of shooting is Kodak’s D76. I do use a rotary processor which speeds up development. However, how to handle this crazy dynamic range? Since I have photographed a few sheets with this developer in challenging situations before, I decided to cut the development time by 50% to wrestle down the highlights. This gave me a development time of 5:30 which is close to the “danger zone” from what I have been told. I was informed that you don’t want to go below five minutes. If I were using Delta 100, I could have reduced by 60% and still been ok. Anyway, after all of the film was developed, I have to say overall I was happy. I shot two sheets at each scene since this was new to me. Thinking if I messed up the development, it would give me another chance to try again. It’s only film, right?

Here is a video from my adventure and the completed photos. If you haven’t shot film in awhile, get some and give it a go. B&H and other online places sell it in all shapes and sizes. Film is making a comeback, and I’m enjoying the ride.

Until next time…

Keep your Glass Clean


Spencer Pullen photographed this wood shop at Koreshan State Historical Site in Estero, Florida.Wood Shop – Spencer Pullen © 2017 All Rights Reserved

Spencer Pullen photographed this diesel hit and miss engine at Koreshan State Historical Site in Estero, Florida.Motor For Generator – Spencer Pullen © 2017 All Rights Reserved

  1. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing. They turned out great in spite of the two incidents!

  2. Excellent! Thank you.

  3. Good morning Spencer, nice video. I love the B&W images.

    I was trying to hear what f-stop you were using on the 8×10, which I thought was f-45. Since I have not shot 8×10 in many years, could you have used f-32 to give you enough depth of field and sharpness to decrease you exposure time?
    Being an industrial photographer, I would have loved to join you. perhaps on your next adventure. Nice shots and very informative.

    • Spencer

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. You are correct, I was using f/45. I have found that even at f/45, that some items are not as sharp as I would like. My lens goes down to f/64 so I may try that next time. I was lucky as the 20 minute exposure was in an enclosed building so the wind was blocked. We’ll have to go out sometime and shoot! Thanks!


  4. Very nice presentation. Enjoyed the video and your images are sharp and crisp. Happy that you’re making this all work for yourself. Keep up the good work.

  5. Excellent. Enjoyed it very much. as always – you’re the best.

  6. Wow. awesome from beginning to end. Your photos are great. Enjoyed the video
    also. Keep up the great work.

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