On a sunny day in the middle of September I decided to go on a trip up the Nebelhorn. I deliberately chose this destination, because I had planned for a long time to go up a mountain in the Alps to use my 8”x10” (20x25cm) camera up there. I made that fateful day the day it would finally happen. At home I packed my bags: The Intrepid 8x10 (first generation) went into a messenger bag, five film holders went into a backpack, together with the 121mm f/8 Schneider-Kreuznach Super Angulon lens. I managed to stuff the light meter somewhere in there, too.
After a 2-hour ride through the south of Germany, I reached the cable car station in the town of Oberstdorf. There I got to stand in the waiting line, armed to the teeth with camera equipment, sweating because of the heat and my choice of clothing. “At the top of the mountain it will be cold”, I thought. I guessed wrong. Three cable car rides later (there are two intermediate stations), I met with a friend at the restaurant on the peak of the Nebelhorn. It was warm and sunny.
A hearty lunch later, and it was already 1 pm. I went to work: My friend found a nice place for setting up and I got the camera and other stuff out of my bags. (See first image in this post to get an idea of what the set up looked like.) The weather and the view at the peak were ideal for what I wanted to capture. The first exposure was done, and I was ready to move to the next position. Wanderlust and a desire to get home on the same day grabbed my friends attention and he went on his way on the path down to town. A 3-hour hike (according to the internet) that turned out to be rougher and longer than anticipated.
I stayed at the peak, looking for different vantage points to expose some negatives to the vista of a busy mountain range. It seems like a weird guy with a large format camera is no daily sight for those who hike up an down the Nebelhorn. I got bemused looks and wherever I decided to set up, there was at least one curious hiker asking questions about the camera, what it is, how it works and why I decided to drag it up there, instead of going with an easy to carry digital camera.
For me the answer was always: It’s fun! Curiosity and the joy of taking it slow and deliberate were ultimately the reasons why I bought the camera in the first place. And the large negatives. Oh those large negatives!
After exposing all 10 negatives, I took the cable car back to my parking space in Oberstdorf. Another 2-hour drive and I was back home, shuffling to get the negatives development in my little “bathroom lab”.
I developed two sheets of negatives (Fomapan 100) at a time in Adonal (Rodinal) 50+1 solution. Two sheets at a time isn’t the most efficient use of my time, as I have a larger drum for up to six sheets, but this was the safer path in cases I made an error during development. After development and drying, I put the sheets into protective covers. Turns out some of them were not completely dry and ended up with a sticky patch that is visible as a large blotch.
The next day I digitized the material with a Nikon D600 (with 24-70mm @ f/8) and a light table (usually used for tracing on paper). I do not have a scanner capable of scanning 8”x10”, which is why the “take picture with digital camera” approach has to suffice for now. The resulting RAW files went through DxO PhotoLab for inversion and some corrections.
It was the first time that I used the 128mm wide-angle lens, and as you can see in the corners it seems to vignette quite a bit even at f/32. Another problem with the wide-angle is the tendency to get more into the shot than was bargained for. I have a couple of pictures with some guard rail in the frame. And this, even though I was very close and sufficiently above that railing.
To me the effort was a success. It may have been a pain to get the camera and equipment up to the peak of the Nebelhorn, and the results may be sub-optimal, but it was a fun, social event. For next time, I would probably take another lens with me, though.