AT Rocks and Roots

Details of the Appalachian Trail – Rocks and Roots.

The ability for roots of trees to take hold in rock crevices has always amazed me. This particular pair of trees did so with tremendous style, creating a nearly abstract artwork within the rock cliff. The colors of the tree roots is almost the same as the rock wall so I had to work a bit more than usual with film choice, developing, and even printing.

I captured the image with a 65mm lens fairly close to the rock wall to enhance the depth of the roots. The small plants at the bottom were as important as the rest of the composition while the sky above is intentionally blown out. The textures of moss and the dark crevices have a depth on the print not really evident on the screen. My scan of the print is picking up the warm tone of the paper which might lead me to toning this image at a future printing.

Technical: 4×5 Chamonix 04N2,  Delta 100, Pyrocat HD N+, Ilford MGFB WarmTone in LPD 1:3.

EV Exposure Chart

Often when I am metering a scene I record the EV values low and high and determine where to place them on the zone system scale. I usually use the average EV function of my meter and place it on f22 or higher as a starting point. Many of my scenes are shot in wooded shady areas early to mid morning so my EV values are rather low for ISO 100 film. Additionally I use a compensating development method for high subject brightness or longer times to expand contrast. Sometimes in the field I need a visual aid to come to the final conclusion of time and f stop.

For example: I was shooting a little stream with some sunlight filtering through which brightened the water but the surrounding rocks and plant life are in deep shade of the canopy. My Average EV was near 8 with some dark details around 6.5 and the brighter sunlit white water  around EV 12 but most tones were between 6.5 and 9.5. If I had my chart in hand I would see that EV8 is 2 seconds at f22. But I also have to consider film reciprocity as well as any filters I may choose to use. In this case I merely had to adjust for reciprocity so I drop to the bottom rows and see I need to expose for 3 seconds instead of 2 seconds. This would put my detailed shadow areas at zone 3 1/2 with the white water falling around zone 9. My developer Pyrocat HD will easily handle the Zone 9 water as well as create the necessary contrasts between mid tones. Darker shadows will likely be black.

If I had chosen to use f 32 instead, my time with reciprocity would be 5 seconds. Ilford publishes a standard reciprocity chart for all their films assuming normal development with normal developers. However since I use a minimal agitation technique I found that using the published times created a more dense negative than usual for longer exposures or when I want to expand contrast. If my meter indicates exposure at 4 seconds, Ilford recommends 8 seconds vs the 5 seconds my adjusted calculated reciprocity failure calls for. That is nearly 2/3rds more light. For short times this did not make much difference in how a negative prints but for longer exposures it could be adding 1 to 2 stops of exposure thus creating a much denser negative. UPDATE: Ilford has revised reciprocity times since this article was written.

I can also use this chart when adding colored filters or polarizers. Assume I use an orange filter with an additional 2 stops exposure needed. If the scene reads an average EV12 and I use F22 @ 1/8 seconds without the filter,  I can then move left 2 cells left in the time row of the table and get a time of 1/2 second. Or I can move up 2 cells in the f-stop column and shoot the scene at f11. OR I can move one cell left (time)  and 1 cell up (f-stop) and shoot at f16 and 1/4 second. The Chart is for ISO 100, but if I were using HP5 @ISO 400 then I  would need to adjust the f-stop or time by 2 stops moving down or Right. Pushing or pulling film works similarly.

IF I realize my measured EV value are mostly bright tones (ie sand or snow) I might have to open up 3 to 5 stops to obtain proper exposure. Again I  start with my average EV  for my chosen f stop, then shift left or up the table cells to increase exposure.  Or down and right to decrease exposure. Each scene requires observation and evaluation of the subject brightness range and tonal values.

This chart is merely a visual aid to help me double check my more complex exposures. 1/2 or 1/3 stops are made usually by moving the f-stop on the shutter to points between values. And since all my lenses shutters are not 100% accurate for time, I can pick the best combination of shutter speed and f stop and make sure it is roughly equivalent. On the rare occasion my meter dies I can use experience with average EV to determine exposure as a best guess.

UPDATE: Here is a Zone III version – Meter for your shadow EV with detail and look up the times and f-stop which should be about 2 stops different than your meter. This is even easier to use since I do not agonize over what value to place at zone V.


Ansel Adams at Booth Western Art Museum

The Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville GA is hosting its third exhibition of Ansel Adams photographs “The Masterworks. I saw the last exhibition featuring similar photographic works from photographers Before and After Adams , which showed his influences as well as those he influenced. Definitely worth a day trip from Atlanta and worth the price of admission. Additionally you get to see some really great wild West art, Indian artifacts, and some great cowboy sculptures. There are some decent eateries in Cartersville too. Sunday is not very crowded if you get there at opening around 1:00.

Blood Mountain Staircase

Details of the Appalachian Trail – Staircase on Blood Mountain. I should call this the Devil’s staircase because it took the wind out of me and several other hikers to get up it. It is only about a 50 foot rise in elevation but is merely the first in a series of steep inclines and switchbacks. The stairs continue up and to the right of the large rock. The air is different at this spot , a little cooler and windier. The light tends to shift as wind blowing the trees above and to the left (mid morning sun) changes the canopy filtration. Most of the trail is sheltered until you get nearer the summit. The 8 second exposure (4sec metered + 1stop reciprocity) shows a good bit of movement in the smaller vegetation which adds to the spooky atmosphere of this spot. The negative is also very dense compared to others I shot that day so likely overexposed due to changing light or miscalculated reciprocity.

Technical: FP4@100 8seconds, PyroHD, Normal dev 27:30 minimal agitation, printed on Ilford MGFB Warmtone paper. It is a good candidate for toning to get closer to the real tones of the rocks.

Sepia Toning with Thiourea

I have been interested in the sepia toned images I have often seen online. My attempts at toning with selenium yielded a nice chocolate brown on Ilford MGFB WarmTone paper but was not so pleasant on MGFB Classic.

I ordered the Thiourea Toning kit from Photographers Formulary. It ships with chemistry to make 1Liter of bleach/reducer, 100ml of Thiourea, and 100ml of Sodium Hydroxide. Mixing the chemistry is straight forward and the instructions are clear and warn of potential dangers.

After mixing the chemistry and getting them all to room temperature I poured about 1/2 Liter into a tray and bleached 3 8×10 images to completion. The bleach is a bright yellow color and works in under a minute. If you wanted to do a partial bleaching for Sepia + Selenium you would likely want to dilute the bleach to slow the action.

I followed the bleaching with a 15 minute wash for each image removing all the bleach from the paper. The remaining bleach can be reused, so I returned it to its glass bottle.

Mixing the Thiourea and Sodium Hydroxide to its diluted state is where you can effect tone. The PF recommendation is 28ml +28ml + water to make 500ml. Other online resources are near that with 30+30+500. It is also stated you can vary the color by increasing or decreasing the amount of Sodium Hydroxide relative to Thiourea. Since the kit only offers 100ml of the toning elements, I decided to go with a 20+20+400 dilution, which would allow me to have up to 5 toning sessions. The toning solution does not keep beyond a single session.

I dropped in the first print and within 1 minute the image was a lovely sepia tone. A nice lovely golden but yet still brown tone that is so much nicer than the chocolate of selenium. The shadows opened up and highlight detail just seemed brighter. Second sheet same result, Third sheet ditto. What amazed me about this was that the three sheets were different papers 1 MGFB Classic, one WarmTone, and one MGFB ART. The resulting color when dry is almost the same, noting tonal differences of the base paper and lack of gloss on Ilford Art.

Overall I am pleased with the Sepia tone and will experiment more. I may even like it better than the black and grey tones for waterfall images.

UPDATE: see Part II of this article here

Ilford Art paper prints comparing Sepia Toned vs untoned, click for larger image.

Bromoil First Try – miserable failure

I stumbled upon and interesting series of videos on you-tube illustrating the Bromoil process. It looks kind of fun and is something one could do indoors on cold/rainy/hot day. Basically you bleach your image removing all traces of silver, Fix, dry, rewet, then add a layer of ink where your silver used to be. The gelatin is supposed to absorb the ink while the non-gelatinized portion of the image is mostly water so repels the ink. What you end up with look like an painting of your image. It can be any color of ink you choose.

I have a few test images I can use to see how difficult or easy this process is.

I ordered the bromoil bleach from Bostic and Sullivan, mixed it up, and successfully bleached and tanned two sheets of Ilford Art and one of the same image on Ilford MGFB Classic. The bleach is a bright green color and works quickly to remove the image. I completed removal of the silver with TF4 fixer and washed for 45mins. Then let the sheets dry for about a week. The matrix (silverless gelatin) is a nice light tan color at this point and the image is still barely visible .

After gathering up my bromoil supplies of inks, brushes, rollers, and stuff,I set out to try the inking process. I cut one of the sheets in half so I could work a small area to get the inking process down. It looks easy online.

I soak the half sheet for several minutes in about 75* water. Then I remove the sheet and dry it both sides gently with paper towels. I ink the half sheet all over with the brush is all directions and have a nice muddy grey until I use the foam roller to redistribute the ink. Still a little muddy but I can now see the image faintly. I drop it back into the water and presto the image forms, but without much detail in the shadows. I gently rub it with a cotton ball while still in the water and it moves some of the ink out of the white areas and lightens the shadows. Wow this is really easy. So I set my test strip aside and go about soaking and inking the full sheet.

This is where things fall apart. The full sheet does not perform the same way the little strip did. It inks up blackishly but then fades and gets muddy when re-wetting. I work it in and out of the water several times but can never really get the image defined.

I switch to my third sheet soaking and getting ink ready. Though this time I am trying a sepia ink. Things start out ok, but when I put the image in the water – I have a negative image. No Idea what caused that since I bleached and fixed at the same time as the other two. Except this is Ilford MGFB paper. But the stained matrix was a positive. So wondering if maybe the sepia ink is water based and not oil based. But can is same brand as the black and says oil on it. Gamblin Relief Ink – artists oils.

In summary, Ilford art probably not best choice or at least not a semi busy image on Art , Sepia reversing image, and I smell like mineral spirits. Other than that it was kind of fun.

Step 1 Presoak  top left.  Step 2 Bleach top right and midde right. Step 3 Fix and wash image barely visible, bottom right.  Original vs Inked test strip, bottom left. Click image for larger view.