Thursday, February 07, 2019

Rescue Job

Welcome to a tale of horror that awaits even the most experienced photographer - yes, it's that old arithmetical conundrum:

Confidence ÷ Carelessness = Total F-Up!

Oh yes, sometimes, the shit hits the paddock and all you are left with are some nice memories and a severely underexposed film which yields virtually nothing.

Look, here's a hankie, wipe your nose and get over it.

OK, technically (to my eyes) the print below is OK, because I've managed to rescue it but on the whole, for film #66/52:   
went down the toilet.

A Smashed Window On A Dull Morning

Well, what can I say? How did I get there?

A Brain Fart? (Well, to be honest, I've never understood this expression, because unless you are really unlucky and digestive gasses are exiting your nostrils, mouth and lug'oles ['cos you've been wired up wrongly] then there's no such thing as a Brain Fart)
So did I knock something off on the meter and misread every single scene?
Well, erm . . NO!
Some mystic mischievous elf fiddled with the meter reading wheel thingy whilst I wasn't looking?
Well . . .
Actually and being brutally honest, hands up . . . IT WAS ME!

Y'see, it boils down to being far too over-confident and blithely thinking that I could get away with a rough (AND wrongly interpreted . . . gargh!) shadow reading at the start, then trust in the film's latitude and be fine from there . . .

Sadly (or perhaps not sadly . . . sorry to bring the argument to the fore again Bruce) you learn from experiences.
In Scotland, if you're handholding a camera and it isn't bright sunshine, and you're rating at anything less than about EI 400, then readings around and above 1/30th at any aperture smaller than f8 really have to be taken with a pinch of salt.
This probably won't occur in your part of the world, but it does up here.
Of course you can easily go lower and slower, but it requires extreme care a steady hand and confidence in your own lack of endemic shake, and not happy snappin'!

'Endemic shake'? 

Well, yes, everyone does, whether it be a bad positioning of your legs, breathing at the wrong moment or just a lack of concentration.
Even the old Roger Hicks' tip of breathing in, composing, and as you GENTLY exhale, releasing the shutter, will sometimes fail you. Though actually that is a fantastic tip that I have put to good use more than once.
Anyway, to get back to the whole point of this, I F-D up big time!
The contact print below looks semi-OK - believe me it isn't - I've had to do some jiggery-pokery to get it to such, so any comments like:

"Oh it definitely looks better on the contact" 

won't be appreciated..

FILM #66/52

Film #66/52

Right so here's my notes for each frame - seems dull . . maybe it is, but when the going gets tough, the tough have a cup of tea:

#66/52, HP5 EI 200, 6/1/19

1./ 1/8th, f5.6, ZIII Gate
2./ 1/60th, f11, ZIII
3./ 1/125th, f8, ZIII, Ali
4./ 1/30th, f11, Z?
5./ 1/30th, f11, Z?, Bridge
6./ 1/15th, f11, ZIII, Rail
7./ 1/15th, f11, ZIII, Window
8./ 1/15th, f11, ZIII, Refl.
9./ 1/15th, f11, ZIII, Shatter
10./ 1/15th, f11, ZIII, Elec.
11./ 1/60th, f.5.6, ZIII, Ali
12./ 1/15th, f8, ZIII, Mausoleum

All handheld and u/exposed

PHD 5+5+500 21℃.
Agit 30 sec, then 4 per min,to 17 mins then stand to 21. No waterbath.
Shame  - some good stuff had they been exposed properly.

Funny, when you look at it I am sort of within my recommended times, so I'll just say that I have not a clue as to why what happened, happened,  'cept I must have made a total balls-up on my initial reading.
Anyway, faced with such a dog's dinner of thinness, what did I do?
Too right, I had a go at printing some of them!

I had to have a go - maybe it is masochism.
Anyway, old pearl finish Ilford MGRC got trawled out, a swearbox was placed next the darkroom door and away I went.


There's virtually no bones on the negative - it's thinner than the top of my head. I figured that printing on even Grade 2 would render a soot and whitewash finish, so I had a wee chat with myself, and printed it on Grade 0.
Low Grade printing is something I rarely do, 'cos my negatives are always perfectly exposed 😀

But this was a different case, so Grade 0 it was, however even that proved to be too much, so what did I do?
Yep Potassium Ferricyanide.
The more I use it the more I realise that it is a dangerous thing.
Very easy to get over-confident and leave a print in till it is a shade of its former self - you'll also get a yellowing of the print if you're not careful, and such is the case here.
Allied to this, in a spirit of 'F-IT, why not?' I (frustrated at the seeming lack of bleaching that was going on) added MORE crystals whilst the print was in the solution and this has led to that streaky bit at the left side of the door that looks rather like I have captured a spirit exiting the scene.
I quite like this actually - when it happened I snatched the print out, washed it, re-fixed and then placed it in the washer.
It's a physical artefact, albeit a flawed one.

Old City Best Seen Through Glass

This was an unusual one - there was so little exposed material on the negative that I did wonder whether I could achieve anything.
The exposure even at Grade 0 was incredibly short, though I did add an extra 4 seconds at the lower section just even things out. Despite all this it was still incredibly dark, so, what did I do?
Yep, Pot Ferry.
It was fascinating to watch the sky because though initially it was really dark, in transition through the bleach, I saw a reflection of myself before I over-did everything and rendered it as you now see it.
I then washed it.
And again, in the spirit of F-IT, I did something highly unusual.
I've got a bottle of Agfa Viradon - their legendary brown sulphide toner from days of yore. It's at least 15 years old, so I thought F-IT, mixed some up and bunged it in and left it there for around 5 mins and indeed, much to my surprise, it has given the print a subtle 1970's brown flared trouser look - sort of velvety.
It seems to suit the washed out view in a morose sort of way.
After that, I took the print out, bunged it in a weak Sodium Sulphite bath, rinsed it and then chucked it into some selenium!
You'll not find this sort of work mentioned in The Print, but, so far, no stains.
Après selenium I used hypoclear - actually it was the bog standard Toop Sodium Sulphite mix again.
And then it was into the wash.

Of everything I printed in this session, this is the one I am going to revisit with proper paper and attitude. It would suit being bigger - maybe the few sheets of Agfa MCC 9.5 x 12" that I have left would be appropriate.

I like it a lot.

At the end of the day, whilst this probably doesn't hold with traditional darkroom practice, I think you do have to have a bit of a muck-about with things. And yes, you can even end up with a physical artefact that you could look at 20 years from now and say:

"Why on earth did I make this???"

A Smashed Window On A Dull Morning

Well, yes I suppose this is the poster boy of the whole session. 
The thing I would say in my defence (yes I KNOW it is poorly composed and taken) is that the bridge we were on wobbles like blancmange the moment anyone steps on it.
Look, there were people coming, lots of them, I was cold. The thought of being jiggled around like, well blancmange, whilst looking daft, holding a really unusual camera really didn't appeal to me.
I even had awareness of being a bit selfish when we were supposed to be on a walk together and there I was a snappin' away (actually my darling wife minded not a jot, but all the same) so, I initially didn't notice this, turned around, noticed it, ran back and snap.
So, it's sort of level but had I gone lower it would have been MORE level (no converging verticals). 
This one was actually a tad over-exposed too as I was shooting into the morning light and the 'shatter' was damn hard to capture.

Anyway, in the darkroom again, a short exposure on Grade 0, normal develop and fix, then Pot Ferry (which made the shatter crisper and also brought out those light marks on the glass).
It was then washed and toned in selenium and hypo'd again then washed.

There's little drama with this one, but I like it, as there is something about the way the cracks have juxtaposed light and dark (they're dark at the top and light at the bottom) that gives an air of unreality to it (to my eyes).

But then again maybe I am just talking out of my arse.

As a non-exhibiting, non-involved in clubs/'arts'/exhibitions/foundations LONE photographer, I have to do a lot of talking and convincing to myself:

Is this stuff any good?
Good?? Define good?
Well, y'know . . 'good'.
Well, I suppose it depends on your definition of the word.
Drone . . . drone . . . drone.

Maybe you recognise your own conversations in that.
It's tough isn't it.
I suppose all this blog is, is some way of getting all this stuff littering my house 'out there'!
I might have a go with it on Galerie - we'll see.

And that as they say is that. Thank you for reading. If you feel inspired to have a fart-around in your darkroom, feel free - just remember the gas mask - I'd forgotten how wonderfully awe-inspiringly, smelly Viradon was. It quite reminded me of myself.

Oh and I forgot to mention that the camera was the Hasselblad SWC/M, which made for a challenging (but fun) lightweight walkabout camera.

I'll maybe have to revisit this bunch of negatives again and print frames 1 and 4 too - that first one is damn tantalising.

That's all - TTFN, be good, have fun and remember to keep eating your peas . . . yes even those ones that have rolled away over there.


  1. That's a real shame, Phil. Still, a learning experience if nothing else. A couple of things came to mind.
    1. Was this an out of date film or fresh stuff?
    2. Did you check your meter's definitely working OK after the last time?
    3. The light I photograph in is as dull as it gets and at this time of year my standard exposure with 100 ISO is 1/60th @ f4 which is more or less the same as your 1/15th @ f11 at 200 ISO. My negs have plenty of shadow detail. One stop less and they'd still be fine. Two stops might be making life difficult. Which leads me to:
    4. Is the Biogon's shutter/aperture working OK? If your film was fresh and your exposure was in the ball park then it could be an equipment fault. If your film was out of date then who knows? Which is a good reason not to use OOD film!
    5. With thin negs, you need a hard grade to get the detail out of the shadows. Can I suggest split grading? (Pause while Ali gets the smelling salts out). Do a test strip for the shadows at grade 5 in small increments - maybe 1 second. Give the correct exposure for the shadows and then do a grade 0 test strip over the top of the grade 5 exposure to get the highlight exposure. With luck you'll get a decent print with both shadow and highlight detail. Low contrast grades alone just produce mush in the shadows. Split grading is the best - and easiest - way I know of for thin negs although it's still not ideal.

    1. Hi Bruce - answers below!
      1. Yep - fresh film
      2. After this I checked against two meters - the Sony A6000 and the F3 - the Gossen sort of agrees, but the meter was my first port of call for checking.
      3. My negatives always have plenty of shadow detail too - I can only assume I've metered wrongly to start and blithely gone on from there.
      4. Yep - Biogon's shutter is fine, or it seems fine anyway.
      5. OK - I'll give it a go, but I really don't hold any hope - I've tried split before and it just never worked for me - maybe I did it wrong. The brown-flare print looks nicer in the flesh than it does on screen - I'm going to try my old ways first on that with graded paper.
      All I need to do now is factor in some time ';0)

      P (unable to comment as himself on his own blog again . . . can you hear me Blogger?)

  2. I'm tempted to say, "Go digital!" but I don't want a bottle of one of those nasty chemicals you use up the side of me head.
    It's a shame you wasted the film, but not all is lost if it provided an opportunity for you to try some different things in the darkroom.
    Keep on making photos and sharing here.

  3. Yeah . . . don't be tempted Marcus. It was a total balls-up on my behlaf, but fortunately what it has done is force me to examine some procedures, and I've discovered what caused it . . . more in a later FB!

    P (unable to comment as himself on his own blog again . . . can you hear me Blogger?)

    1. Ah! I'm looking forward to reading what the problem was.

  4. My favourite is frame #10 :)

    Are you sure your developer is not dead?

    1. Hi Omar - nice to hear from you again - hope you are well!

      I like 10 too, but in trying to print it, the foreground was almost impossible to get without looking awful - I'll have a go again - but I've not included it, because of the soot and whitewash effect.

      As for developer - nope it's fine -had 3 more films out of it since then and they've all been great.

      P (unable to comment as himself on his own blog again . . . can you hear me Blogger?)

  5. I've been peering at Smashed Window, looking for glass shards and wondering...
    Tried the five diopter glasses I got for screen focusing. No luck. No shards.
    Then I accidentally pinched up the screen and saw the tiny, tiny, shiny polygons.
    What a great shot it became, instantly. Well done, that man.

  6. Hi David - MANY thanks - it's appreciated.
    I've been back and taken better ones with a Sonnar - for it is still there - it's very arresting!

    P (unable to comment as himself on his own blog again . . . can you hear me Blogger?)


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