N.B. This post will verge on being a little geeky: if you have trouble telling the difference between reciprocity failure and D-max it may be a little... obscure.
Colour landscape photography has always been my thing, particularly shooting transparancy film on a large format camera. The much lamented dearth of large format E6 processing service around Cape Town has, however, put the brakes on that particular pursuit. Shooting colour neg is also and option, of course, but not one I have taken on just yet. So for now I have decided that having a serious go at shooting my large format landscapes on black and white film is something to put some effort into. The image accompanying this post is one of the first successes (i hope) on this new adventure.
The photograph was made at Ballots bay, a small private beach between Wilderness and George along the Garden Route. It was a little bit of a happy accident that I got to photograph here at all: We were invited to a festive dinner with family holidaying on the estate, and I only decided at the last minute to chuck the monstrous camera bag into the car. We only headed down to the beach around sunset (with two cars full of very well fed family members), but when I first laid eyes on the scene, I knew bringing the camera along was a Good Idea!
The beach is very small, and there is a broad, mirror smooth, river leading up to a boulder beach bordering the pebble beach section in the photograph. The already rather dim light meant I had to rush the composition scouting a little, and I couldn't immediately find a nicely resolved composition including the boulder and river, so I decided on this simple composition using the trickle of water flowing into the ocean to lead between the two cliffs framing the ocean.
I set up my Ebony SV45ti large format camera with my widest 75mm Nikkor SW lens, and added a Lee filters 0.6 soft ND graduated filter to hold back the bright overcast sky a little. I exposed two frames of Arista Edu Ultra 100 ISO film. This is still a new film to me, but a bit of google research had shown that the 100 ISO rating is a little generous so I I exposed it at 80 ISO. Metering was done with my trusty spot meter, and I based my exposure on a reading for the dark areas of rock at the lower left of the frame, underexposing by 2 stops to ensure the shadows remain fairly dark. Reading off the bright parts of the sky and surf indicated a contrast range of around 4 stops, so contrast was well within the film's dynamic range. The first frame's reading was for an exposure of 30 seconds at F16, which I adjusted to 1 minute for reciprocity failure, and then added another minute since the light was fading quickly. The second frame started from reading of 1 minute, adjusted to 2 for reciprocity, doubled again for the fading light, and eventually extended to 6 minutes after making more readings while the film was exposing.
I processed the two frames separately, to allow me to check the result of the first before deciding how to process the second. The first frame was given extended processing in Ilford ID-11 to help add some density to the highlight areas. The result of this was good, with nice highlight separation and good midtone detail, but the shadow areas were quite thin, and I was concerned that they would be too dark in the final image. To help solve this problem the frame you see here was given 90 minutes of stand development in Agfa Rodinal diluted 1:100. This resulted much better shadow detail, while still giving adequate density in the highlights.
Unfortunately, as you can see below, the film stock suffers from tiny pit marks randomly distributed in little "clouds". Because of this most of the negatives i have made with this film will not be usablefor hand printing. This image was scanned on an Epson V700, and some liberal burning and dodging was done in Photoshop to help the mood along.
Overall I am quite pleased with the result, and while my processing technique and visualisation for black and white images can certainly do with more practice, this is one of the first images that has me feeling as though i may be on a good track! The detail, resolution, and mood really is something special. Now to find a 4x5 enlarger and film without holes in it...