Lamborghini Dark Slides

Getting Through A Creative Block

 By Ryan Gillespie

Creative Blocks, or barriers to inspiration, can be described as the inability to access one’s internal creativity. Those in creative professions – writers, musicians, performers, artists – are often more likely to be affected by creative blocks, which can last for days, weeks, months, or even years.

Throughout all my years as a photographer, I have never found myself with a creative block, until now.

Just like everyone else in the world, in March of this year, I found myself in lockdown with my family in our home in fear of COVID-19 and a new worldwide pandemic. Weeks of uncertainty and social isolation were beginning to take a toll on me in ways I had never felt before. I wanted to get out of the house and explore the world around me and to get back to nature, but even the State Parks and many local areas had been shut down, and venturing out was almost frowned upon. Little did I know at the time but my desire to photograph and be creative was beginning to slip away. Another month passed and I began to realize that it had been weeks since I picked up my camera or made any prints and the desire to do so was gone. Another month had gone by and I thought that maybe I just needed to sell everything and find a new hobby in this new way of life and world that I was finding myself in.

My wife and youngest son noticed the change in me and expressed their concern as well as their desire that I don’t give up on photography. About this same time local restrictions were beginning to be lifted and venturing back out was possible, but I still was in a photographic fog, a creative block. One Sunday I turned to YouTube and sat and watched a few episodes of Ben Horne, Nick Carver, and Alan Brock and I began to feel the dim light of creativity turn a little brighter within me. I spent the next few evenings flipping through Photography books of favorite photographers I have in my collection. As I began to drive around town, I noticed I was “seeing Images” again, seeing compositions. The next weekend I grabbed my gear and hit the road to capture anything, anything that caught my eye. I didn’t care about the subject, or the location, I just needed to get back to feeling the process. Setting up the tripod, set up the camera, attach a lens, throw on the dark cloth, and view the scene on the ground glass. It was at that moment, the moment of seeing the scene on the ground glass that the dim light within me was now fully glowing. There is something magical when it comes to viewing your scene and composition on the ground glass of a large format view camera.

It breaks my heart to think about how close I was to selling everything and moving on. Creative Block can hit any one of us at any given moment and I’m sure I will encounter it again sometime. If you find yourself in the darkness of it, let me make this suggestion, seek inspiration in others, and then get out and waste film. Just expose film regardless of subject or location. Make exposures of anything that looks interesting to you. Don’t expose film trying for a masterpiece, just expose film to expose film and who knows, maybe a masterpiece is somewhere in all those exposures.

During my personal process of exposing film just to expose film, I came back home with a couple of images that I was happy with and they definitely make me want to get out and do it again.

Barn Road Dark Slides

(Chamonix 4×10, ADOX CHS 100 II, PMK Pyro)

Lamborghini Dark Slides

(Chamonix 4×10, Ilford Delta 100, PMK Pyro)


Name: Ryan Gillespie
Location: Vancouver, Washington
Description: I decided to get back into film photography in 2014, large film, and the large format process. The camera is big and the process is slow, but this oversized and somewhat primitive camera design is a romantic and creative way to become much more intimate with the subject and landscapes around me. The majority of my work is captured close to home in the Pacific Northwest.

Long Exposure Photography

What is long exposure photography and why I do long exposure photography?

By definition, any photograph made with a shutter speed of 1 second or longer could be considered long exposure photography. This varies from one photographer to the next. Some consider 0.25 sec long, some 0.5. Ultra long exposure photography, although there is no clear definition, is a long enough exposure which smooths out the movements. In my experience, anything longer than 30 seconds is considered ultra long exposure. Never the less, This yields a photo that records the passage of time in one single frame. the resultant photograph can only have an impact if the subject has an element of stillness and movements. For a long exposure photograph to be successful, it needs to have mainly two elements:

  1. a subject that is static, such as rocks, or trees
  2. an element of constant movement such as water, clouds, people, etc.
Standard Exposure

Standard Exposure

Long Exposure

Long Exposure











Long exposure photography can turn a very chaotic subject such as the sea with harsh waves into a minimalistic, serene, dream-like scene that has mystery, that you normally can not see under normal circumstances. It is an abstract world that you can only create with your camera.

Long exposure photography with a large format camera is more challenging than with a digital camera, which is the reason why I like it. The calculation for a correct exposure for various films changes based on the respective reciprocity failures. The development of black and white film also is different for each film and also changes with long exposure.

The best time to photograph in my experience is overcast days, as the exposure is uniform due to the diffused lighting, there are no harsh lights and shadows, which can adversely affect the exposure and development of the film. Dark shadows on a sunny day, despite metering correctly, will yield a very dark, almost complete black shadows without any details due to effects of long exposure and tricky development. For the same reason, the highlights can often become over-exposed.

I typically carry a B+W 6 stop screw mount ND filter and a Lee 10 stop ND filter but I find that the 6 stop is what I utilize most often, As a 10 stop ND filter with the addition of reciprocity failure time can lead to very long exposure times which can increase the risk for failures. When it comes to black and white film, I often use Kodak Tmax 100 due to higher resistance to reciprocity failure than Ilford Delta 100. To put it into perspective, a 1-sec exposure for Kodak Tmax 100 with 6 stop ND filter yields a 1 minute and 30-second exposure, as opposed to 8 minutes and 14 seconds for Ilford Delta 100 in the same situation with the same 6 stop ND filter. As one can imagine, the Delta 100 exposures can easily add up in darker situations.

Black and White Long Exposure

Black and White Long Exposure

I also use Fuji Velvia 100 on overcast days as it is very stable with long exposure. One must be cautious on sunny days as you can easily have over-exposed highlights with long exposure.

For the exposure calculation I use an app called Reciprocity Timer which simplifies the task. It has a database of popular films which allows the addition of different filters.

To meter the scene, I typically meter as I normally would, then plug time exposure time into reciprocity timer, add the 6 stop ND filter, and use the exposure time given by the app. I have found that the only time my exposure has not been accurate is on sunny days with harsh lighting.

As stated earlier, there are many challenges with long exposure photography with a large format camera. On a recent trip, I discovered that wind, despite having a sturdy tripod, can still create movement, not by shaking the camera, but the movement of the film inside the film holder through the opening of the dark slide. This creates a partially out of focus photograph. One half of the photo is in focus which isn’t objected tot he wind. the portion of the film that is adjacent to the dark slide opening, is subjected to movements, thus leading to a blurred foreground in a vertical orientation. The film can also shift creating an out of focus capture. As I thought about this further, I came up with two fixes. In order to prevent wind entering the film holder, one can place a piece of masking tape on the opening after removing the dark slide and prior to exposure, or one can make a custom dark slide, long enough to place in the opening just after removing the actual dark slide. To fix the shifting film, one can tap on the film holder a few times to assure it doesn’t move during exposure. Removing the film holder from the Ziplock bag also allows any shrinking and expansion of the film sot hat it doesn’t occur during exposure.

Focused Top Half

Focused Top Half

Out of Focus Foreground

Out of Focus Foreground











As I continue to learn this process myself, the biggest advice I can offer is trial and error. I recommend experimentation with your favorite film, with only one filter, such as a 6 stop ND filter which results in long enough exposure to yield the desired effect without leading to very very long exposures. Develop a technique that is consistent.


Name: Gevork Mosesi

Location: San Diego, CA

I began my photographic journey in the mid 1990’s with the legendary Canon AE-1 which still works till this day. In 2011, I rekindled my love for analog photography, leaving digital photography. I have not looked back since. I primarily use a 4×5 large format camera to make my photographs. I also utilize a 6×17 panoramic camera in the right setting. This format allows for a slower workflow which makes me more aware of the landscape, giving me full control of the image making process, ultimately avoiding multiple unnecessary digital exposures. Most of my work is from the landscapes of the Southwest.

Gallery: Gevork Mosesi