Finding Your Grail

We all have that one image that sticks in our mind and would like to produce something like it. Many photographers trek to Yosemite to photograph in the same spots as Ansel Adams did. One photographers whose work I love hails from Hilton Head island South Carolina. Ben Ham finds some beautiful marsh and lowland locations and if given the chance I would place my tripod in his tripod holes and hopefully create similar magical images.

While visiting my sister in Charleston I decided to seek out some low country areas and see if I could at least create something interesting. Near her home on Daniel Island I found some beautiful old curving oaks and a scenic marsh. Of course I drove all over North Charleston and surrounding areas for three days before finding the magic spot. I arrived just after sunrise so I had some shadows and sunlit areas to deal with… I made my exposures and hurried to the next spot. By 9:00 am I was done.

It would be September before it would be cool enough in my garage darkroom to process the film. I Knew I had something on film because I took back up shots with my Leica. But when I processed the 35mm film I made a mistake in assuming my fixer was still good. I ruined the few shots I had on that roll. I doubt they can be recovered.

So before I processed the 4×5 film I made a test shot in the back yard and processed it separately. Confident in my renewed chemistry I was able to process the negatives. The next day I created some contact prints and saw some of the images were what I had hoped for. My favorite spot did not turn out quite as well as planned because of sun flare on the lens. In some ways its an interesting detail and in others its an annoying artifact. I still need to master this print so will try to post an image here once I get the images properly printed.

Smoky Mountains and a tale of woe

I took my family on a long weekend trip to the Great Smokey Mountains. We stayed in a modern cabin near Pigeon Forge and did all the usual touristy things like visit Dollywood and shop in the towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. We took some scenic drives and the family even allowed me to stop and photograph some of them. It was a wonderful trip except that it rained most of the time we were there so there was not much hiking or getting out into the wild.

A couple of weeks after returning home I set out to develop the images I had taken. I had a new 4×5 tank that could process up to 12 images so I put them all in the tank.  I mixed up the chemistry and began the processing. After developing and fixing I washed the negatives well before removing them from the tank. Some of the images were almost clear and the rest were very thin. On No, what have I done.  I was fairly confident I had exposed most of the film accurately so started retracing my development steps.

In mixing my HC-110 I used a syringe instead of my usual graduated tube. And what I thought was 1 ounce was only 1CC so my developer was too weak for the time that I processed. Fixer was likely ok. The images were barely visible after drying so I knew I had something on the film. So I set out to the internet to determine if there was a way to salvage the images.

This is what an under processed and reprocessed negative looks like.

It turns out there is a reprocessing method. First you bleach the image with a reducing bleach until the image is clear. Then you redevelop using a staining developer like Pyro HD. This can all be done in subdued room light in trays and repeated until density is built up. I did see some improvement in the images that were not too thin but the contrast was now too much and print time still too fast to really work with the images.

I now am much more careful in mixing chemistry to make sure I am aware of the units of measure. I have to chalk it up to a learning experience, and I still know where those spots are if I ever get up that way again. Since I only print sporadically I now also have become aware of shelf life of mixed chemistry. I liked the Pyro effect on the negatives and will try it for future projects.