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Tracks Donnelly River south coast Pemberton Australia

Animal tracks Donnelly River
Animal tracks late evening

D’Entreacasteaux National Park

Tracks Donnelly River south coast Pemberton Australia was made at sunset. When you head south from Manjimup on the South Western Highway you cross the  Donnelly River.  It’s a short bridge barely wider than the highway.  Blink and you’d miss it. But downstream the Donnelly River is majestic. It passes quietly through dense tea tree before snaking around limestone cliffs to meet the Southern Ocean.

If possible I like to spend a bit of time in a location so that I can observe it at different times of the day and under different weather conditions. Several days and nights spent at this remote spot on the south coast near Pemberton gave me a chance to explore a section of coastline.

Sections of the coast are lined by limestone cliffs. Just behind these are sand dunes, wetlands, sedges and paperbarks. Beyond the paperbarks the landscape becomes drier. Here ancient marri forest extend inland towards the rich loams that support towering karri forest.

These landscape transitions between beach, fresh water, sedges, wetlands and forests provide a rich ecosystem through which a variety of animals move. Early morning and late evening are good times to observe that movement as the animal tracks become visible.

The almost pure white sand takes on the pink sunset colours reflected off clouds above. The sun’s low rays accentuating the sand’s wind swept pattern cutting diagonally across the animal tracks. Tracks Donnelly River represents on one hand the emptyness of the coast. Yet on the other hand there is clear evidence of life, even if it’s not always observed.

Velvia 120 roll film in a 6x12cm back and my wooden 4×5 field camera.

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Bull Creek tree ferns Cradle Mountain Valley

Bull Creek tree ferns

Bull Creek tree ferns is an image I am yet to print. It was made in 1988 on a friend’s property at Bull Creek,  in the Cradle Mountain Valley, Tasmania. We had spent a wet day hiking through myrtle forest and tree ferns on the slopes above Lake Cethana locating the old survey pegs.

In my backpack I had my wooden field camera, one lens (the only one I owned) and 6 sheets of film. The tripod I carried in hand was used more as a walking aid than for any photography. It was covered in dirt, mud and all manner of leaf litter, as I used it to support myself down steep slopes. I still have that tripod and it works fine, although these days I have opted for lighter ones.

During the day I used up my 6 sheets of film at various locations. Several images were made of Bull Creek in a deep valley where it runs through the property. Here the forest canopy was thick and light levels very low. Exposures ran to minutes even though I was using black and white film I had rated at 200 ASA.

Towards the end of our day the sun broke through briefly illuminating the forest and tree ferns with back light. I used my last 2 sheets of film making a vertical and horizontal format image of this scene. The image required additional exposure which it did receive, but did not receive reduced development, which it should. The exposure was several seconds, with a 90mm lens on a tripod. With split grade printing on multigrade (my preferred method), it should print up successfully into a 16×20 inch fibre based print.

At the time I made this image Bull Creek tree ferns, the property was pretty much in the back blocks, but now borders Lemonthyme Lodge.

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Funemployed Justin Heazlewood

Funemployed Justin Heazlewood

I recently read Funemployed by Justin Heazlewood, a book written about the realities of earning a living as a fulltime artist in Australia.

Heazlewood, an author/ comedian/musician/ writes a painfully entertaining account of his experience making a full time living in the arts. He shares his successes and his lows. In an age of facebook and blog sites perfection it is easy to present only life’s successes and omit mentioning our failures. But it is the later which provides the greatest insight to the reader as to the challenges faced by artists in Australia.

I think Heazlewood has been very generous in the sharing his thoughts and feelings. He expresses his doubts and conflicting emotions with a rare honesty. Sprinkled through his narrative are insightful anecdotes shared by other artists with similar  experiences. This is a seam of gold.

A full time living in the arts is not an easy gig. Rather than dissuade you, this book should arm you with the knowledge that you are not alone in the difficulties you may face.

If you are considering a full time career in the arts, or setting up an arts practice I recommend that you grab a copy of this book and have a read (and a laugh).

Heazlewood, J 2014, Funemployed  Life as an Artist in Australia, Affirm Press, Melbourne

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Canning River Photos Silver Gelatin Print Exhibition

Dissociation Exhibition Opening Heathcote

Canning River Photos Silver Gelatin Print Exhibition

Heathcote Gallery Perth

“Dissociation” is an exhibition of Canning River Photos. It continues to document the contemporary landscape of one of Perth’s largest metropolitan regional parks and its relationship to the environment of Perth’s major water ways.

It is an attempt to resolve the conflict between the visual impact of land and river degradation while acknowledging the inherent beauty that persists within.

Dissociation photographic exhibition is an ongoing project documenting landscape elements within the Canning River environment. It  follows two smaller exhibits at the Riverton Library and the Canning River Eco Education Centre in 2013 and 2014.

Silver gelatin photographs are hand printed by the author in his traditional wet darkroom, from medium and large format black and white film negatives.

You can purchase all 28 images in the exhibition as a hardcover book.  To enquire about purchasing an original print, please email me.

 


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Links Suppliers Resources Film Based Photography

Fire aftermath Canning River Regional Park Perth

I started to think about some of the more common technical questions I get asked about film development and printing techniques.

Below is a list of books and web sites on photographic technique which I have found useful. If any web site links become broken please let me know.

Books

(Suit beginner to intermediate)

Ralph Hattersley

Beginners Guide to Darkroom Techniques

If you absolutely need to start at the beginning, I can think of no better book. I came across this book in my teenage years and it created a lasting impression. Hattersley is an educator, able to convey information and theory without overwhelming those who are not technically minded. The book is a complete guide for the amateur photographer on the creative and practical skills of developing, printing, and retouching black and white photographs. Regardless of how little gear you may own or how makeshift your darkroom set up is, Hattersley will guide you through the basic steps, suggesting solutions for the amateur working from home. Above all, Hattersely demonstrates throughout the book that regardless of what stage you are at in photography, you can work cleanly, neatly and take pride in your darkroom work. I love this book, there is not a Zonie in sight! It is out of print but easily available online secondhand for a few dollars.

Hattersley, R 1976, Beginners guide to darkroom techniques, Robert Hale, London.

 Zone 6 VI vi workshop

Zone VI Workshop

This is a good little reference book for the newcomer to film, who, at some stage, will want to learn just how long they should develop their B&W film for and what ISO (exposure index) should they set the light meter to for optimal quality. Fred’s methodology will work well for those who scan their negs or use diffusion or colour head enlarger light sources or contact print. His method may lead to over-development of negatives used in enlargers with condenser light sources and would need to be adjusted accordingly.

This book will cover exposure, the zone system, determination of a personal film speed, development procedures, development time test and the proper proof. The last is possibly the most important concept upon which everything else hinges. I still use this concept today when testing a new film or just making a contact print of my developed negatives. The proper proof is the departure point from which you can make comparisons about film grain, tonal range, development time, exposure index, camera and meter function and so on.

I first came across Zone VI studios and Fred Picker as an undergraduate at Curtin University in the 1980s. I was able to add a little garnish to my science degree with the only photography unit then offered by the Arts Faculty, and my tutor gave me a Zone VI newsletter by Fred Picker to read. About twelve months later I bought my 4×5 wooden field camera from Zone VI, which I am still using nearly 30 years later. Fred was often controversial with his opinions, and I can’t say I would agree with everything he said, but I still have his newsletters which can be highly entertaining at times! That aside, Zone VI Studios also made some innovative darkroom gear. The book is out of print but available second hand online, usually for just a few dollars. Now and then his newsletters also surface for sale.

Picker, F 1974, Zone VI Workshop, The fine print in black and white photography, Amphoto, New York.

(Suit intermediate upwards)

les-McLean photography

Creative Black and White Photography 

McLean’s book is essentially about how to conduct your film test to determine your film exposure index and development time, and how to translate that into a fine black and white print. McLean uses a zone system methodology and a visual basis to conduct and assess his tests, using nothing more than what you would normally have in a darkroom. A greater part of this book provides plenty of good examples of fine prints with accompanying text and explanations, as well as a chapter devoted to case studies in how he set about making some of these prints. This later section would suit intermediate to the more advanced, and illustrates the control and quality one can achieve in darkroom printing. Again, it may be out of print but is easily available second hand online. Also visit his web site for other articles.

McLean, L 2002, Creative black and white photography, David & Charles, Devon.

 steve mulligan photography

Black and White Photography a Practical Guide

In some fundermental aspects, Mulligan’s book is similar to McLean’s above, they are both filled with excellent examples and descriptions, and both use an exposure and development system based upon the zone system. Mulligan and McLean have different personal approaches to the zone sytem, yet both are equally valid, as are the other methods described on this page, demonstrating that there is no single “correct” approach. Where Mulligan’s book departs from McLean’s (other than personal technique) is that he broadens his discussion to include equipment choices, working in the field and ideas about presenting and displaying images. Dispersed through the chapters are images and cameos, providing detailed insight into why he has chosen a subject, the technical decisions he had to make, and the final results. If you have the basics under your belt then this book will help you move up to a new level. Currently available new and second hand online.

Mulligan, S 2006, Black and white photography a practical guide, Photographers’ Institute Press, East Sussex.

(Suit intermediate to advanced)

way-beyond-monochrome

Way Beyond Monochrome

Overall, this is an excellent reference book to have on hand and one I have found most useful in recent times. The authors are not afraid of the science behind photography and go into considerable detail with diagrams and formula, covering a comprehensive range of topics from print presentation through to advanced printing techniques and of course film exposure, development and the zone system, to name but a few.

As far as determining your film speed and development time testing, the authors provide several solutions from simple to more complex, and there are parallels in some aspects to what is described in the Zone VI Workshop.

In excess of 500 pages, with intelligent tips, this is definitely a go to book for when you need pithy, indepth explanations. The book is in print and available online.

Lambrecht, RW & Woodhouse, C 2011, Way beyond monochrome advanced techniques for traditional black and white photography, 2nd edn, Elsevier, Amsterdam.

John Blakemores Photography Worksho

John Blakemore’s Black and White Photography Workshop

By far one of the best books to date of the explanation of making a fine print. It’s like being in the darkroom with Blakemore, watching and listening while he makes one of his prints. You see the various stages of the print in its making and read Blakemore’s detailed rationale behind his choices.

The print examples Blakemore uses are some of his best images. This alone makes it is a pleasure to view his print making in various stages. It would seem Blakemore is trying to get you to feel your way into the print first.

But be under no illusion, Blakemore is a master of his materials. Some of his examples appear deceptively simple in their tonal structure yet express great technical command which is grounded in the zone system. This approach, which he covers in mid to late chapters is one of the best and most direct I have read for a long time.

If you don’t have a master printer living near you then this book is highly recommended. I think it is now out of print but second hand copies are available online.

Blakemore, J 2005, John Blakemore’s black and white photography workshop, David & Charles, Devon.


Websites

Determining your Film Speed and Development Times

Paul Wainwright Photography

Another variation on determining your personal film speed and development time. This method is particularly suited to 4×5 sheet film users as it uses a 4×5 step wedge from Stouffer (see below), although its principles can be applied to other film formats as well. Download his pdf at the bottom third of the page “Use Your Eyes, Zone System Testing Without a Densitometer”


Developing 4×5 Film in a Paterson Tank

Review of MOD 54 large format film processor by David Tatnall for Large Format Photography In AustraliaA 4×5 sheet film spiral designed to fit a Paterson Super 6 tank, holding 6 sheets of film.

Darkroom Equipment – Timers

RH Designs

RH Designs was established in 1994 by Dr Richard Ross and has been manufacturing high quality enlarger timers, darkroom exposure meters and other accessories. They manufacture the Analyser Pro meter, a highly-acclaimed enlarging meter-timer combo featuring a patented grey scale print tone indicator which shows you the tonal range of the print, so you can place important tones and preview the look of the print without the need for endless test strips. Since Dr Ross’s retirement , his meters are now being manufactured and sold by Second Hand Darkroom Supplies in the UK.


Print Finishing – Dry Mount Press

Alex Bond Photography

Preparing your work for exhibition – a series of images I placed on my blog showing the step by step process of dry mounting fibre based prints onto museum board.


Loading Jobo 4×5 2509N Developing Reels

Film and Darkroom User Org UK

A short description on loading 4×5 Jobo Reels for daylight processing in Jobo drums.


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Photographic Print Types

Canning River Sheoaks raindrops

Below I have listed four photographic print types using silver and chemistry as their basis. These include traditional silver gelatin fibre based prints, Polaroid prints, Type C colour prints and Cibachrome or Ilfochrome prints. There are many others, including a whole range of printing substrates available to digital printing. If you have a favourite printing process please leave a comment.

Traditional silver gelatin fibre based prints

Calgardup Brook Redgate Margaret River Australia
Calgardup Brook 16x20in silver gelatin More Info

Traditional silver gelatin fibre based prints have a baryta base (made from a clay) that accentuates the perception of image depth, tone and luminosity compared to today’s commonly used plastic coated papers. In recognition of this standard, manufacturers of inkjet material are now trying to mimic this richness of tone in silver containing prints by developing “traditional” inkjet substrates.

Fibre based prints have been in existence long enough to have a proven track record of image stability.

You can read more about what is involved in a typical printing session here.

Polaroid prints

Dune Cabbage (Arctotheca populifolia)
Dune Cabbage Polaroid Type 55 PN More Info

Polaroid prints once came in a range of sizes and types, from the small SX-70 style instant colour prints up to a massive 20×24 inches. Polaroid sheet film, like the one pictured here, was exposed and processed in Polaroid’s own film holder. The holder was mounted on the rear of the camera, the film exposed and then the holder and film removed. The exposed film/print sandwich was then pulled through rollers within the film holder, breaking gel pods containing the chemistry to instantly develop the negative and positive. After about 30 to 60 seconds the sandwich was peeled apart, revealing a Polaroid print on one half and the negative on the other. Sx-70 style films were ejected directly from the camera immediately after exposure and developed before your eyes. Polaroid prints could be colour or black and white. Not all Polaroid processes yielded a usable negative, so each print was unique.

The 4x5in print above of Dune Cabbage was made with Polaroid Type 55 positive/negative film. With Polaroid Type 55 4×5 film, each exposure yielded a positive 4×5 Polaroid print and a 4×5 negative that could be used in an enlarger for printing.

 

C-Type Digital Prints

Lefroy Brook #02 More Info
Lefroy Brook #02

C-Type prints are regular colour prints made on photographic paper, they make up the majority of photographic prints people have made at the local mini labs or at professional laboratories from colour negatives and digital files.

The “C” stands for chromogenic, the nomenclature that Kodak used back around the 1940s. Today’s C-Types are usually produced by digital printers using laser light, such as Durst Lambda or Lightjet printers. Photographic papers must be handled in total darkness and only exposed to image forming light. The paper is then processed in RA4 photographic colour chemistry. This is very different to inkjet printers which spray inks or pigments directly onto the surface of non light sensitive paper or canvas under daylight conditions.

R-Type and Ilfochrome Cibachrome Prints

Karri forest Shannon National Park
Cibachrome print made in author’s darkroom: karri forest Shannon National Park

Before the advent of digital printing, colour prints made from colour slides, also referred to as reversal or transparencies films, required a different process to colour negatives. Kodak, and others, produced positive to positive photographic papers for creating prints from reversal films. These were referred to as R-Type prints, the “R” for reversal, and used R-3 chemistry.

Ilford Cibachrome paper was another popular way of making colour prints from reversal films, with one of the most stable colour processes. This was a positive to positive process, the colour layers being already present in the paper, rather than in the chemistry process. The image was formed by a dye destruction chromolytic process using a bleaching step in P3 chemistry. Cibachrome became Ilfochrome in the 1990’s. In 2011, Ilford announced it would nolonger continue Ilfochrome production.

 

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Split grade printing on fibre based paper

split grade printing fibre based paper

This is the last in a series of three posts exploring a single, high contrast image, with the goal of making a silver gelatin fibre based print. The first post was Overdeveloped negatives – printing from difficult negatives and the second Contact Proof Prints-standard exposure time.

Split grade printing

I prefer to use the method of split grade printing, especially when dealing with difficult negatives. It breaks the printing down into, what are for me at least, more controllable steps compared to using a fixed paper grade approach. Using variable contrast paper you have the option of using either approach that fits you best. And just because you are using variable contrast does not mean you cannot also employ other contrast control measures like masking, flashing and two bath development to fine tune your prints.

Pre-flashing the print highlights

For this print I chose to pre-flash the lower two thirds of the image with non image forming light. The aim of the pre-flash is to boost highlight details in the forest understorey, by heightening the sensitivity of the emulsion to the main print exposure and thereby encourage more highlight detail to become visible in the print. Such a small pre-flash exposure does not affect the darker print tones to the same extent as it does the highlights.

Soft grade exposure first, then add the hard grade

When I split print I start with a soft light exposure to determine the correct exposure for an important area of print highlight. To that base exposure I might dodge (subtract) certain areas of exposure from the print or burn in (add) exposure. I then work with the hard light exposure, again using a base exposure with dodging or burning as required. Les McLean has written a short but excellent introduction to split grade printing in his “Articles” section on his web site. You will find his web site link on my Resources and Supplies page.

The images above shows the notes I write on the back of a print in china pencil before exposure, outlining all the steps I plan to make during the print exposure under the enlarger. The numbers next to the steps refer to exposure times, in this instance I am using an f stop timer, so a burn of 2/3 equates to additional exposure of 2/3 of a stop. A 6/3 burn in the last step during the soft light exposure equates to a 2 stop increase in exposure compared to the main print. Likewise the hard light exposure has its own steps.

In the top image there is fine textural detail visible in the sunlit karri hazel to the left and in the middle of the print, which is not clearly visible on the monitor reproduction. Likewise some of the shadow detail is not as clear on the monitor. I could have scanned the negative then manipulated it in photoshop to approximate the silver print, but I wanted to avoid that and show the unmounted, untoned 11×14 inch silver gelatin print complete with slightly curled edges!  The print will be trimmed and dry mounted, so I don’t print with generous white borders which would be a waste.

Overall I am pleased with the progress made on this difficult negative, given that the contact proofs were so uninspiring. The additional exposure given at the base of the footbridge has worked well in the print. I will view the print for a while, as I feel there are other areas of the print that I may wish to fine tune before I am satisfied I have done my best with it.

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Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse Australia

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is perched at the very tip of a rocky peninsula that pokes out like a little finger off Cape Leeuwin near Augusta. It is the most south-westerly point of the Australian mainland and as such is the first landfall to obstruct the wind, rain and storms generated deep within the southern ocean.

Made with my digital Canon 5D2 in 2012, it was published later that year to replace an earlier lighthouse image of 1997-98. That image had been published in 1998 and was a popular postcard, with tens of thousands being sold. It had also appeared in several publications and a book. However, I felt it was time for a new image. The early photograph had been made on velvia 50 iso film using an Olympus OM4Ti and a 300mm lens. Made in the evening, so I could photograph the lighthouse with its light on, the exposure was over several minutes. By comparison, the more recent image made at sunrise took only a second.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse was one of the last in the world to be manually operated until 1982, using a clockwork mechanism and kerosene burner. Its height is 39 metres and elevation 56 metres above sea level.

Both cards have since sold out.

Cape Leeuwin  Lighthouse Augusta

 

 

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Contact Proof Prints | Standard Exposure Time

contact proof print 2015

In this post I will be looking at establishing a standard exposure time for making your contact prints. This is the second post in a series of three, you can find the first post Overdeveloped negatives – printing from difficult negatives here.

Making a contact proof print

Contact proof prints are simply made by placing the negative onto a piece of photographic paper, placing a clear piece of glass over the top to hold the negative firmly in contact, then exposing with white light.

That first contact print above, was made in 1987 using a normal contrast, grade 2, fibre based paper called Guilbrom. It has been printed way too dark, the negative’s edges indiscernible from the paper’s deep black edge. In my enthusiasm and inexperience, to achieve maximum black at the film’s edge,  I overexposed my 1987 contact print. The result is terrible. The shadows in the forest understorey show very little detail, as do the sunlit areas, resulting in a print of high contrast.

Minimum exposure for  maximum black

Overexposing contact prints can be a trap to using the “minimum exposure time to achieve maximum black” method. A good contact print exposure time is one where the thinnest part of the negative (ie unexposed clear edge) yields close to maximum black on the contact print using a minimum exposure time. You are really wanting to achieve what I term “near black”, rather than maximum black.

Traps to beware

Establishing a minimum exposure time to yield maximum black can be tricky, as it is operating on the curve of the photographic paper’s sensitivity. Small changes in exposure can give disproportionately larger changes to print density (black). So it is easy to over expose the print as I have done here in 1987, resulting in a high contrast proof print which does not show all the possible detail recorded on the negative.

But the contact proof also tells me that the sunlit area adjacent to the foot bridge is blocked and lacking detail, even with this overexposure. The highlights of the negatives are overdeveloped and with hindsight reduced development would have assisted in retaining more detail in these bright areas on a grade 2 paper. Overall, in 1987, I was disappointed with my contact print, they were way too contrasty, lacking important detail in the shadows and highlights.

Less exposure reveals more shadow detail

The second contact print made in 2015 has received twice the amount of light I would normally use as my standard exposure time in creating a contact sheet. That tells me that this negative made over 25 years ago is at least one whole stop denser than my regular negatives I expose today. This contact proof print has been made on the equivalent of a grade two normal contrast paper. Notice that you can just make out the film identification notches in the upper right corner, that the edge is close to, but just off, maximum black.

The shadow detail is much more visible than the first contact print from 1987. You can see within the shadows of the she-oak and karri hazel understorey including leaf detail. There is an overall feeling of enveloping light which I had desired, but the proof still clearly shows that the sunlit areas are too dense and that they require additional print exposure on a grade 2 equivalent paper.

This second contact print is still far from ideal. If I wanted to reveal more shadow and highlight detail on the contact print I could use a softer grade paper like grade 1 or grade 0. But the purpose of showing these two contacts on grade 2 is that, apart from demonstrating the problems with a high contrast scene, care must be exercised when establishing a standard printing time for making contacts.

Importance of establishing a standard exposure

Establishing a standard exposure or proper proofing time can give you valuable information about your film characteristics such as personal film speed, accuracy of your exposure, image contrast, normal development times, expansion and contraction development times and equipment function.

At workshops I am asked: why do I expose 400 iso film at 200 iso and not at the manufacturer’s recommendations? Or how long should I develop brand X film for in brand Y developer? Or how can I determine proper expansion or contraction development times? All the answers can all be found in establishing a standard contact proof print time, and this can be made visually without specialised equipment.

Resources to help and guide you

I won’t reinvent the wheel here, because there are some excellent books out there on how to do this.  John Blakemore’s book Black and White Photography Workshop is an excellent reference for establishing proper proof times. My resources page has Blakemore’s book details as well as other books and websites from authors who offer a great deal of information about proper proofing and darkroom techniques.

I make my contact proofs on fibre based paper because it is the paper used in making a final print. If you are confident of your developing and exposure that you are giving a film, it is sometimes more useful in assessing contact prints made on softer, grade one equivalent paper. This shows more shadow detail on the proof, but gives an overall flatter, foggy feel to the contact print proof images of course. This was a method John Sexton shared in a 1995 lecture that I attended, and something I employ today.

A contact proof need not look like the finished print.

Unlike contact printing whose end purpose is to create a finished print with perhaps dodging and burning, contact proof printing has a different objective. At the end of the day, a contact proof print is not about it looking like your final print, but to give you as much information about your negative as possible so that you can plan your final print.

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Overdeveloped negatives | printing from difficult negatives

Overdeveloped negatives | printing from difficult negatives

Overdeveloped negatives, we all have them hidden away somewhere. You know, one of those bullet proof negatives that we look at despairingly knowing it is going to be difficult to print. And this is one of mine, which I have been putting off printing for several decades. You only have to see it on the lightbox above, overdeveloped highlights that look almost solid black. Its only redeeming feature are reasonable shadow details.

In this series of three posts I will be revisiting an image made under difficult light, assessing its contact sheet proofs and using split grade printing to make a 11×14 fibre based print.

Shannon National Park – Wista 4×5 field camera – Karri forest 

Step back to the summer of 1986/87. I had received my new Wista 4×5 wooden field camera from Zone VI Studios in the US several months earlier and was itching to get out and make some photographs with it. Armed with one wide angle lens and 12 sheets of black and white film and a tripod, I headed south to the forests. For five or six days I camped within the Shannon National Park, in the heart of the karri forest, one of Australia’s tallest hardwoods. The Shannon once had a small town site and timber mill, which eventually closed around 1968. During the early 1980s the area was a flash point between the State Government’s Forestry Department and conservationists, who were campaigning for the end to old growth logging. Referred to as the Shannon River Basin, it was eventually gazetted as Shannon National Park in 1988.

High contrast photography – forest scenes 

Each summer day during my stay at Shannon brought clear blue skies and the forest was flooded with hard, bright light with corresponding deep, hard edged shadows. Great weather for tourists but a photographer’s nightmare. To make it worse I found my subject is most interesting when I photograph into the sun, transforming the backlit leaves into translucent pearls of light. The light was bright and it was hard and I wanted to retain some of that feeling in my photographs. The contrast of the forest scene was very high, and my preferred vision bordered on photographic failure.  To make a successful image I would be treading a very fine line. High contrast scenes sit on the edge of the dynamic range of film and papers. Errors in development time and exposure become readily apparent.

Tray processing 4×5 sheet film and film reticulation

When I returned home I eagerly processed the negatives in open trays in a friend’s darkroom, in Fremantle. As the summer heat wave cranked on, the water coming from the old building’s cold water pipes was at 30ºC, so I cooled the developer to 20ºC with an ice block water bath. But there was no extra ice for the other solutions or for film washing. So the film had at least a 10ºC temperature shock going from the developer to the other solutions. It wasn’t until the film was hung up to dry that I noticed a reticulation pattern in the emulsion throughout all twelve films. My initial reaction was that this may have ruined my work. At the time I had no 4×5 enlarger, so no way to assess the affect of the reticulation pattern on the final print.

Next post I will assess contact sheet proofs made in 1987, with a second contact print made a quarter of a century later. I will also be looking at the importance of establishing a proper proof time and its role in determining your film exposure and development times.