Friday, 29 November 2013

Ye old R3

Out of date R3
Over recent times I have had the tidying up bug  including a good rummage round in my film cupboard where I discovered four rolls of film. Nothing remarkable in that, I hear you say! However what I came across were two rolls of Rollie retro 100 and two rolls of R3, tucked away in a corner! I know! very out of date unless your name is Mitch in which case they are reaching maturity. It is strange how things come together. I recently posted a very grainy picture of a surfer dramatically falling off his board to illustrate how grainy things can get if you do not process your negs correctly. The film used to take the picture is the late lamented Rollie R3. If I had used the film with a fine grain developer the 1600 ISO negatives would have been a lot smoother.

R3 used at 400 ISO
When available it was advertised as a variable ISO film ranging from 50 to 3200 The idea of a ultra fast film is what encouraged me to purchase some. It took a little while for me to find a suitable subject to test it out on. By chance I was walking along the coastal footpath into Croyd Bay with an empty camera.  So I loaded the R3 set 1600 ISO and spent an hour or so taking pictures of surfers as the sun went down.

R3 used at 400 ISO
I cannot believe that it was 2009 that I last used the R3 and then at 400 ISO, having learnt my lesson previously, I used a fine grain developer. You could not of hoped for a finer set of negatives, they were that smooth it looked as though they had been sprayed on to the film back.

I don't use fast films a lot as I like bright sunny days with lots of contrast. It just so happens I was recently given the imaging warehouses catalogue and while thumbing through it I noticed they stocked Rollie 400s, which got me thinking  how would it compare to the old R3? There is only one way to find out!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Capturing the light.

This is an excellent read if you are interested in the birth of photography. Written by Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport. It takes you back in time to the years after the French revolution where a flamboyant Louis Daguerre is making his name as a scenery painter and showman. While in the English countryside a young shy gentleman amateur scientist by the name of Henry Fox Talbot plays with the idea of being able to fix a scene on paper using chemicals among other things.

The book is written like an historical thriller as the two gentlemen race to discover the holy grail of chemicals that will allow the light drawings to be  developed and fixed so that all can enjoy their own images, but who gets there first and crowned the inventor of photography?

For me this was a page turner even though I have studied both men in some detail at collage. While I was reading this book I felt that I was being introduced to both men for the first time. This was nothing like the dry text books from my collage days; it is easy to read although in the beginning it has a bit of a quirky writing style but once you get the hang of it the book flies by so don't be put off, otherwise you will miss out!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Split grade printing the next step dodging and burning .

Top grade Zero
Bottom grade five
The use of split grade printing has changed the way I work in the darkroom. Yes it takes a little bit longer having to produce two test prints, but in the long run it cuts down the amount of dodging and burning needed to achieve a finely toned photograph. I have also noticed a luminosity that has been missing from my graded prints. It has also shown me that it is an advantage and not a waste of paper to make full or half page test strips. You get a better understanding of how much more light is needed for the high lights, so you can build this into the first full print of the scene. This saves time and paper having to reprint it again and again to get it right.

I find that my more contrasty negatives are more easily printed using the split grade method, giving more control of not just the tones but also the contrast. Burning or dodging my prints has been reduced considerably, allowing me to add more detail at the extremes. 

So at what point should you be burning in or dodging? The grade zero exposure being the most important one is also the stage at which you should be making your adjustments. If possible you should be including them for the grade five test strip. By doing this you will have a better understanding of how the contrast affects the corrections and make allowances for them in the final print.

Some of you reading this will be thinking it's all to complicated and not for you, Dodging and burning is about having confidence in your ability, once you have done it and seen how it changes your pictures for the better, you will be wanting to do it every time. I enjoy this part of the picture making process, it always reminds me of a composer on the rostrum encouraging certain section of the orchestra to bring out his interpretation. Only you are using light to enhance what you had in your minds eye.

Burning in graduation times
OK I'm going to keep this simple just to give you the idea of what to do. I have only used grades 0 and 5 but in certain cases other grades maybe more appropriate but that is for another time.

Producing the prints:

I produced a soft toned (grade 0) test print at five second intervals. When it was dry I compared the segments to determine which would give the best overall toned exposure and how much extra light would be needed for the sky. I chose seven seconds for the whole picture, this allowed the street scene shadow to keep its detail without it blocking out. A further twenty one seconds would be added to the sky. With the main exposure done the sky was burned in. For this I used two black pieces of card held together to form a V shape. The trick with dodging (holding back the light) or burning (adding light) is to keep the mask moving otherwise a hard line will be left. I gently moved the card backwards and forwards lingering in places to give the sky a graduated look. The times on the picture are there as a guide.

Now I placed some black card over the masking frame to protect the picture from any stray light, while I adjust the enlarger to grade 5 for the contrast exposure. The first segment was covered and then exposed at two second intervals there after. Again when dry I chose 3 seconds.

Final print
With the all the times combined a full print was made. There are some short comings; firstly the build on the left could do with a bit more burning in to bring out the texture of the wall and if I wanted to be really picky the sky could do with masking in more precisely which would mean cutting a mask that mirrored the buildings outline.
The idea was to keep it simple and to show what could be achieved with the most rudimentary of masking off.

Monday, 11 November 2013

William Egglestone guide.

A while back I was looking at the photography section of the Foyles web site. When I came across a new copy of William Eggleston guide. I had to check to make sure that I was not wearing trick glasses. As far as I was concerned it could only be obtained second hand. So I did the right thing and purchased a copy and waited to see what came through the post.

It was reprinted in 2011 and first published in 1976 by the museum of modern art New York. It had been produced in conjunction with the d├ębut  exhibition of William Eggleston. The critics slammed the exhibition as boring and banal, by doing this they had completely miss read Eggleston's pictures.  Yes it was jejune and mundane, all in wonderful bright colour but that was the whole point. The common place in society was no longer the preserve of black and white. It was suddenly hip to make this type of picture using colour film.

The quirky nature of Eggleston's pictures is what appeals to me, the sense that there is more going on outside the frame makes me linger just that bit longer in case all is revealed! I know it is the 'picture of a moment in time' that appealed to Eggleston's eye; and  his view of the world, the way he puts it across that intrigues me.

I like his attitude - see the picture, take it and move on. He is not one to exhaust the view from every angle and at three different settings types. He knows his own mind and is prepared to take a risk, if it does not work he has not then wasted a whole film. In this respect I'm with Eggleston. 

The book is an unusual size being 9 ½ inches square (240 mm). A modern take I feel. I'm not sure that the first edition was this size. The cover has a simulated leather embossed feel to it with the picture inset. The pictures appear on one side of a double page spread. William Eggleston does not go in for giving his pictures titles but reveals the place where it was taken. Could a place name be a kind of title? The pictures do not always stand central on each page giving the book a rhythm of it's own.

I'm pleased this book is part of my collection after all these years.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

A film about Magnum.

This film was shot in the nineties and gives an insight into a time when Magnum may have lost it's way. The Magnum film is an hour long and has interviews with a number of their leading lights. The quality of the video is a little off but still worth a watch as it reveals the way the agency works. 

Friday, 1 November 2013

PMK Pyro negative comparison.

Fg 1
Over the past several weeks I have been tidying up and cleaning out the darkroom making it ready for the winter season.  I don't know about the rest of you but I end up with a number of storage leaves full of negatives hanging around from previous printing sessions. While sorting them into order I noticed that a number of them were marked PMK Pyro afterbath. Wait a minute, these negs look more tanned than when I first processed them!. I did mention in another post that on first comparison the differences were slight and therefore not worth doing. On comparing the negatives now, the afterbath tinting stands out. ( see Fg1) Which would suggest that the developer continues to oxidise over time to some degree.

After giving this some thought I wondered if there would be any differences in how they printed, the only way to find out would be a practical comparison. I didn't think it would be enough to judge PMK against its self so I introduced a set of ID11 processed negatives to the equation. Both developers produce a fine grain just how fine I was not sure.

Materials for the comparison.

ID11 negative.
All the negatives are FP4 + 120 format and 6x6 in size. (the 6 x 4.5 negatives in Fg 1 were substituted for another set) Surprisingly they were all developed for 14 minutes in their respective developers. The afterbath neg's were exposed using a Zero Pinhole camera and to be honest is the only time I have used the afterbath. All the negatives are printed on Ilford Multigrade RC gloss  and processed in Ilford MG developer using the split grade printing method.

In the darkroom.

The first thing I noticed was the difference in the clarity of the grain in the focus finder. The ID11 negatives were easy to focus, they had a defined grain pattern. The next neg I looked at was the PMK without afterbath these had a smoother looking grain pattern making it a little difficult to focus. The afterbath negatives had an even finer grain pattern, taking longer again to bring into sharp focus.

PMK Pyro negative without afterbath
The printing of each negative was straight forward. Once the pictures were completely dry I placed the three of them together in front of the window on a bight day to study them.  The first thing I noticed was that the PMK negative prints looked warmer than the ID11 print; had a cooler more black and white look. I find that Ilford papers tend to have a warmer feel in comparison to the Foma papers I use. Next I noticed that the ID11 print looked crisper, sharper perhaps than the others this maybe be because the contrast was more defined or as other people have suggested that PMK negatives are softer due to the staining affect this developer has. One thing is for sure the afterbath neg is softer contrast wise, this was noticeable when it was being printed; as a rule of thumb I have found when setting the contrast part of the split grade method the timing is about half the time needed for the toned section. In this case it needed more and still looks soft. 


PMK Pyro netative with afterbath
It would be unfair to conclude that the afterbath negatives were less sharp as they were taken with a lens-less camera and softer to start with. But when considering the other PMK Pyro negative I can say that it appears to be softer in sharpness when compared to the ID11 picture. With that in mind you could conclude by association that they would have been softer again. Therefore adding credence to those claims that PMK Pyro used with afterbath are less sharp but more subtly toned. When compared in isolation you would be hard pressed to notice a difference at all.

I believe that it is down to individual tastes when it comes to sharpness and if it was not for this comparison I would be none the wiser as far as my eyes are concerned. And that is all that counts.