B&W, Rocks & Roots, exposure and separation questions

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by jp80874, Jun 17, 2006.

  1. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    I am looking for the best separation of similar tones photographed in pretty dark settings. I am starting a series of large format, Black & White, pictures of trees and roots “just hanging on” inspired by Kenro Izu’s, platinum, “Scared Places”. I will be shooting 7x17”, contact printing in silver and 8x10”, enlarged to 16x20” silver. The location is the Cuyahoga Valley National Park south of Cleveland, OH. Elevation changes range up to 105 feet. The setting is very dark cliffs, wonderful erosion, shaded by overhangs and conifers. Early mornings and late afternoons will be cooler and let the light in more at angles.

    I would appreciate your thoughts on the best choices of products to aid in tonal separation in these conditions. After two years of using Bostick & Sullivan’s Rollo Pyro, Gordon Hutchings lecture at the LFVC conference finally made me understand why I was getting better separation than I had with non pyro developers. I have been using Kentmere VC papers. I am open to your thoughts on what products and techniques; exposures, film, papers, developers, filters, etc., will help me deal with the challenges of long exposures, dark conditions and similar subject tones, as in dark roots and rocks. Given similar choices from different vendors I would prefer to support what Ilford is doing in the market.

    Thank you for your thoughts and time,

    John Powers
     
  2. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    The location as you describe it seems to offer limited opportunity to use light to separate the rocks although you do say that there is some angled light early and late in the day. That is when I would plan to make my exposures given that the angled light will be hitting the rocks. I would visit the spot before the light is at it's best to allow myself the opportunity to study what it is lighting and consequently separating and then you can start making planes to photograph it.

    If the light is not working for you my next suggestion is to consider filters, probably green and yellow. Of course I am assuming that the rocks may have lichen or some moss or natural growth, if so the two filters I suggested will lighten any green you include in the image.

    I hesitate to offer any advice on film development as my knowledge of Pyro developers is very limited and if you have heard Gordon Hutchings talk on the subject I certainly could offer no further advice. I would expect that he did talk about stand or partial stand development, this would probably work to your advantage in the situation you describe.

    Having looked at making the negatives we only have left any work that could be done in the darkroom. I would suggest either of the Ilford papers, Warmtone or Multigrade IV, depending on the image colour you feel best suits the subject. Having said that I know that Forte papers are much admired on this forum but I repeat that their inconsistency is my reason for not using them. Clearly, from your description, you are going to be needing to produce contrast to achieve the separation in the rocks and Ilford will give you that and do it consistently. When printing them don't be afraid to use harder grades to achieve the contrast you need.

    One final though is that you could take powerful flashlights and paint with light where the separation is required while giving long exposures.
     
  3. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    John,

    The situation that you describe calls for the greatest local contrast that you can obtain.

    When I say local contrast, I mean something totally different the the overall contrast that is often spoken of. Local contrast is what gives the luminance to a silver print.

    Local contrast calls for a steeper gradient in the characteristic curve. Preferably with a long straight line and abreviated toe. Not all films will produce the optimum for your desired application.

    I would prefer to use a lith film such as APHS from Freestyle in this application. This film is capable of very high density ranges and the gradient is very susceptible to the influence of different developers. The downside of this film is that it is slow (EI of 3-6). It is orthochromatic (which will probably help in the shaded overhangs). What you describe will call for a film that has the capability of great degrees of expansion. With different developers this film has the ability to act as a continuous tone material and at the same time it has the ability to act as a high contrast material. I would favor developers ranging from various dilutions of Dektol to ABC Pyro (considering that you are contact printing). This film does not exhibit the grain characteristics of current panchromatic emulsions.

    If you have similar tones and very little color then filters will not help. In fact green filters will not help a lot in lightening the conifers tones (because of the high IR emissions) and red will darken them.

    I have found that Nuance graded paper (Adox) from JandC has the highest dmax and most favorable curve of any paper that I have tested. I favor the use of Amidol as the developer of choice. This combination is capable of producing prints that are very, very, high quality.

    While none of my recommendations afford the use of Ilford products, I have offered my suggestions based on achieving the optimum results in your situation.
     
  4. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Sorry, dropped out for a couple of days. Thank you Les and Donald as well as a couple of PM senders who wish to be anonymous. Some great ideas here, some conflicts which I can try to see what works for me. I even found someone shooting ULF not far from here doing a similar project who wants to get together and test ideas. Not bad for a quick but complicated question. Thank you all. Any late comer ideas or shooters will be appreciated.

    John Powers
     
  5. Harrigan

    Harrigan Member

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    John if you shoot 8x10 I think you can still get tech pan, albeit very expensive. Of course its not happening in 7x17. I would also suggest trying an ortho film to give some punch but if you've never shot high contrast in camera send me a line I can help and I have some kodalith you can try (12x18). I've not used ortho-lith film with pyro but I have gotten good negs shooting kodalith and other ortho films in camera by diluting the developer down 50 percent with minimal agitation and very long exposures. As you said the location is very dark already so maybe this is not the best solution as the ortho lith film run iso 3. Keep in mind reciprocity and your exposures under these conditions could easily get in the 1/2 hour range. If you're shooting at iso 3 with ortho-lith reciprocity will be something like tripling the exposure from the meter if you are getting a reading in the minutes. I double anything in the seconds range and triple anything in the minutes. Other than that I've used tm 100 with good results in overcast lighting with long exposures shooting rocks and knarly roots etc. Overcast light will allow you to push the contrast pretty far and still get highlight detail. Anyway just some thoughts as this sounds like a really cool place to shoot and similar to what I like to shoot.
     
  6. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    A couple of thoughts from similar situations, but certainly not with the experience or depth of understanding by those posters above. John, take this one with a large pinch of salt.

    Since light will be "flat" in the shots, I would cast my vote for shooting in full shade with Efke 25. If there is full sun and shadow, I would use Efke 100, as it will contract well. Efke 25 has the ability to expand contrast beyond the useful range, but in this situation I would use it as a first choice. If this isn't working, try a lith film, as has been suggested. With the 25, it's orthopanchromatic rendition may be correct with the light values you have, but go gently with the filters. A green or yellow will most likely work best with this film, but hopefully there won't be any reds to render, or all bets are off.

    For a developer, I would use pyrocat-hd and minimal or stand agitation. Donald has mentioned the need for a great separation of tonality, and this developer is much better suited to it than the PMK variety. The general staining properties of PMK tends to render a "cast" in all shadow areas which produces murky low values and poor separations. Stand or minimal agitation is not possible with PMK, due to the irregular stains from a lack of consistent agitation. With pyrocat and minimal agitation techniques, shadows will be enhanced and the separation of tones will be better. Edge effects will be another advantage from low dilutions and slow development which may help with tonality.

    Perhaps Steve will see this thread and add his input. He has worked with this situation more than anyone else I have seen on the forum, and has perfected his stand development for low light scenes like this. Best of luck, tim
     
  7. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Harrigan if you are anywhere near Cleveland, OH and would like to join the party, let me know.

    The cliff area or geologic feature is roughly the shape of a horse shoe with the peak of the curve facing north and having the 105 feet height. The two feet of the horse shoe taper off to no cliff at all a mile away to the south.. The horse shoe is about ½ a mile across at it’s widest. This allows the light to hit different places during the day.

    I have worked with lith film in a photogravure course a year ago and as you say, high contrast and v-e-r-y slow. I am thinking because of the roughness of terrain and the age of the operator I will do a test run with my relatively light 4x5 and HP4 plus on a cloudy day. This will give me a sense of the exposures needed. I’ll bring a book and mosquito repellant. I’ll see what the negatives look like using materials and developer that are familiar in all three formats. As a result of Les’ Toronto workshop I will try both warm and cold tone papers and developer. Then prints on the wall for a little hard light and harder critique. From there the ideas you all have given will be gratefully tried as needed. Fortunately I live about seven miles from the cliffs, am retired, enjoy the exercise and have the time to experiment. I work with the happiest Labrador Retriever in Northern Ohio. My wife even plans to come sketch. Thank you for your wisdom, encouragement and suggestions.

    John Powers
     
  8. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    John, As Les has already mentioned the use of powerful flashlights to paint with light you may want to consider some reflectors to direct light to the areas for separation also. It sounds fun and challenging. Good luck, Robert
     
  9. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Thanks Robert. I sent Les a PM asking if he would pull the generator and spot lights from the parking lot, over the rocks to the cliffs. He is conveniently across the pond now, but promises he will return. Before retiring I always used to say, “trust me, I am in sales”.

    I went for a walk there this morning with the light meter set at ISO 64 or half of FP4 Plus. It was overcast. There were several 4 minute and 8 minute readings without considering reciprocity and then the Sekonic 508 went off the scale. This is definitely going to be a by guess and by God exposure setting.

    The sun cover is conifers, but the trees in the precarious positions are I think ranging from oak, beech to maple. The roots are a very dark green blending into brown. As Les suggested the rocks and roots are in many places covered with green moss. I will try the filters and l-o-n-g exposures.

    What I need to do is get a young football player from school interested in this project so he can help carry both the 7x17 and 8x10. Then while one camera is doing a 30-50 minute exposure I can set up the other camera for the next shot. Any such applicant, please contact me.

    John Powers
     
  10. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    John, I would opt for recruiting the girls from the cheeleading squad. They are very strong and nimble and so much easier to look at. With such long exposure times you might want to consider using tmax 400. Although its not my favorite film you can't beat its reciprocity characteristics as I'm sure you are well aware of. A couple of those spring-open reflectors will be much easier for Les to drag across those rocks. They may even ride on the baby hauler without much problem. Just don't put a scratch on that new Phillips before I get a chance to see it.
     
  11. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    This maybe an ideal situation for unsharp masking and printing on grade 4 or with a # 4 filter could be very helpful, Pre-exposing on zone 2 or 2 may also prove very helpful.
     
  12. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Thanks Claire. I normally use very little contrast, but was amazed at Les' work seen at the Toronto workshop. It was very effective and far more contrast than I have seen before.

    Could you elaborate on "Pre-exposing on zone 2 or 2 " or give a link to an explanation. I do not know about this.

    Thanks,

    John Powers
     
  13. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Dolly and I saw your twenty 8x20 nudes exhibit. Wonderfull work. Congratulations. I thought you had all the cheer leaders tide up in knots.
    I need lifters not lookers. Dolly, my wife for the rest of you, says I can shoot any models that are dead. That is why I am into the Rocks and Roots.
    Come on over Robert. You are local and there are plenty of R&R to go around.

    John Powers
     
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  15. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    If you have a copy of Ansel Adam's book The Negative it is explained there. Basically to prexpose on Zone 1, use a grey card that is out of focus and evenly lit 4 stops less than normal exposure..3 stops less than normal for zone 2 pre-exposure. This will strengthen your shadows and add to their seperation. It is extremely easy to do.
     
  16. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    John it's a bit like pre flashing paper. It sensitises film in just the same way. If you don't have Adams book and need the exact description PM me and I'll copy it to you
     
  17. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Pre Exposing film actually does not contribute to tonal separation in the low values. It tends to compress the tonal scale at the lower end of the film's characterisitic curve and allows for good highlight tonal separation.

    And no it is not anything like pre flashing paper. It works on the opposite end of the tonal scale. Pre flashing paper will compress highlight tonal separation.
     
  18. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Claire and Les,

    Thank you. I do have the Adams "The Negative" book. I tried to read it many years ago when I was happily stuck on 35mm and found it way over my head. I have done a lot of study work since then. I will re-read and see if it makes sense now.

    Thanks,

    John Powers
     
  19. RobertP

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    Thanks John, I'm glad you liked them. Robert
     
  20. Harrigan

    Harrigan Member

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    John thanks for inviting me to come up for some shooting. It sounds like a very cool spot but its pretty far from me and funds are a bit tight right now.

    I don't know about all this pre-flashing stuff but after you took those light readings you might really think about tmax 400. Doesn't pre-flashing lower the light sensitivity of the film by a large factor?

    I have some images I could show you of very dark rocks and things but my scanner is out of commision so I can't post them right now. I shot them on tmax 100 on 4x5 and the tonal seperation is excellent. You might try doing some test shots on a smaller format and see how things come out. I would forget the ortho film its just way too slow for this kind of light. You may be talking hours of exposure with most ortho film!
     
  21. DBP

    DBP Member

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    The suggestion about using flashlights raises another thought - how about some angled light from a flashbulb, say maybe a #5 or even a #22?
     
  22. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    You could also try split-grade printing. This takes some fussing around with to get it right, but it will help immensely in getting exactly what you want on the paper, as long as you have the detail you need in your negative. The how and the why has been discussed extensively here already, and far more comprehensively and accurately than I could recap in one post, so do a search on APUG for split grade printing.
     
  23. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Thanks.
    Doing that with Les as my coach,
    or nag depending how you look at it.

    John Powers
     
  24. KenS

    KenS Member

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    John,

    I am tempted to suggest (although it is difficult to judge without seeing the tonal range of the rock-face in question) but there might be one method that could "selectively" lighten some areas of the rock....

    Tone the print (but not to completion) with a selenium toner, then... after washing, treat the print with a solution of ferricyanide to remove some of the density from the "higher tone" surfaces where "all" the silver has not been changed to Ag selenide.

    Ken
     
  25. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    How would you dilute ferricyanide to a wroking solution, say 1/2 gallon for an 11x14 tray? Or are you suggesting going at selected areas with a swab or something?
     
  26. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I would mention that split grade printing has limitations that are determined by the density range of the camera negative and the exposure scale of the paper on which the image is printed.

    For those times where these limitations prove too limiting, contrast enhancement masking is a viable alternative without the limitations of split grade printing.