Category Archives: Black & white

North Somerset Artsweek 2019

It has been a very busy April/May – preparing 75 pieces for North Somerset Artsweek #nsaw2019 – but so worth it!

We have had a great response from visitors to the Clevedon Theatre Shop venue, in terms of numbers, purchases and (more importantly) conversations. Just today and tomorrow to go then time for a rest.

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The artists, Eric, Laura and myself.

NSAW2019_Venue36 (2 of 2)My work on show – B&W photos taken with the antique camera and large prints taken with the new Fujis. Also one of the wood-sculptures – Starling murmuration (sold).

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A successful first lino-cut in a short taster-workshop.

Antique camera at Hartland Quay

It has been a busy few weeks preparing for North Somerset ArtsWeek in May. I am exhibiting at The Theatre Shop, Clevedon BS21 6HX.
#NSAW19 @NSomersetArts northsomersetarts.org 
More of this later…..

Meanwhile I wanted to spend some time enjoying the drama that is the North Devon Coastline. No better place than Hartland Quay – and so it proved.

A two night stay at The Hartland Quay Hotel (recommended) gave me the time to view the cliffs and sea in a variety of light and weather conditions.

A mix of paper negatives and x-ray film was used. The X-ray film exposure times have been tricky to work out – I am still experimenting. Anything from 1/125s (using the Thompson Pickard shutter) and 2 seconds have yielded images, but the longer times do seem over-exposed on  processing. I have some more work to do on the images and will post later.

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Yorkshire Trip & a Half-Plate Camera

Taking the opportunity to stay a few days at Skipton this week, I packed the VW Camper with my “new” 1900s Hora bellows camera and basic dark-room gear and headed into the countryside – enjoying the challenges of photographing in the snow.

VW Camper Darkroom (1 of 2) vw-camper-darkroom-2-of-2.jpg

With such bright – but high contrast scenes it was always going to be a challenge to get any kind of image on the paper negative. Even with the paper at ISO 6,  F45 still only have me a 2 to 4 second shutter speed. So I used the Thornton Pickard shutter with the “time” setting and held it open with an air bulb for a count of up to 4 seconds.IMG_4530 IMG_1603

Photographing waterfalls was a similarly challenging exercise – again a high contrast subject. This time the light level was lower allowing for a longer, and hence proportionally more accurate timing of the, exposure.

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Here was a good place to compare the two lens types I now have. A wide angle 5inch ? F6.4-22 Apem Asymmetrical and a standard 8 inch F8-45 Beck Symmetrical.IMG_1559  IMG_8844

I am very happy with the images from both of these lenses though the wide angle image was over-exposed – only working with a 2 second exposure at f22. I had pre-flashed the paper negatives before setting out on this trip and am happy to report a much improved dynamic range as a result.

I think the images are really atmospheric – they draw you in to explore, to see and discern detail. The hyper-reality, hyper-clarity of many modern digital images leaves no mystery – you see the image and quickly forget it. But an image that you have to work with a bit lingers more in the memory and invites you to fill in the hidden/un-revealed detail. You finish the story of the image – so you have an investment in the image – start to form a relationship with the image- the subject – the photographer.

 

 

 

 

Pre-Flashing the Paper Negative

Another useful tip from an online forum – to reduce the contrast of a photo paper negative, the advice is to “pre-flash” it with a short exposure to an enlarger light. I don’t have an enlarger so have rigged a small desk light with a couple of sheets of tracing paper over the shade and then added a filter holder and for the flashing added a number 9 Ilford magenta filter. Pre-Flashing the paper for 0.5 to 1.0 s seems to have given an improvement in tonality for the images. To test the process, I deliberately chose a high contrast picture – dark soil and white, sun-lit, crocus flower.

First – without flashing

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Second- with.

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Vintage Photography with X-ray Film

With 5×7 sheet film being expensive, at over £1 a sheet, I have been looking for alternatives. I love the look paper negatives give to some images and so will continue to use paper as “film” for some subjects – particularly those that don’t move …

In searching discussion forums on alternative photographic processes, I came across questions and advice about using x-ray film. Working out at around 10p a sheet this looked almost too good to be true – but it works  … and it looks great!

The film is described as being “sensitive to green light” so I wondered if, like photopaper it would render reds as black, but that is not the case. There is quite a good tonal range as the print below shows.

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Now to get things in focus

Having learned how to set the exposure on the 100 year-old Thornton Pickard I have been working on getting everything well-focussed.

The challenge with focussing for a still life like this is the depth-of-field is shallow beacuse the camera is so close to the subject. To maximise the depth of field I set the f-stop to its maximum of f64. As a result of this small aperture little light gets to the film, so I needed a long exposure of 7 minutes.

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