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Sunday, August 19

Plucked from the bin



This is a 5x4 shot from the Speed Graphic that I've had lying on my desk in the man cave for many, many months. During that time it's picked up some scratches and lots of dust since it wasn't even in a neg bag. It's suffered terrible neglect and the reason was because it was 1. underdeveloped, 2. I didn't have any scanner software, 3. the darkroom was in no shape for printing and 4. the bulb in my big Durst L1200 had popped and I hadn't got round to buying a replacement.

It was also a scene I've photographed on 35mm and medium format in the past (the DSLR, too) and it's become over-familiar so the odds were well and truly stacked against it. Earlier this evening, I was tidying up the man cave and picked it up in my right hand with a rubbish bag in my left. I was about to "make them one" when I stopped for a second.

A few months ago, I bought a copy of Vuescan for my ancient Epson Perfection 3200 Photo and thought it wouldn't do any harm to give it a quick scan to see what might be recoverable. I'm glad I did because I quite like the look the 127mm Ektar has imparted to the the scene.

It's an old lens - 1940s I think - and has quite a lot of fine scratches on the front element. It's fine when the light isn't shining directly into it but, as on this shot, it flares a bit and goes softish when there's a bright light source in the frame - which that window was despite appearances to the contrary. I had to tickle it up a little in Photoshop to make it presentable.

The Tmax 100 neg in all its glory.

The pic above gives you an idea of the actual negative. The exposure wasn't bad considering the contrast range but the highlights are very underdone. Personally, I blame Barry Thornton. I liked his two-bath when I used it fairly regularly about 25 years ago but any time I've used it in the last few years the results have always been very soft. It's normally freshly-made stuff as well from my dwindling supply of dry chemicals so it's not exhaustion or anything like that. I've gone off it completely now.

The man cave tidy-up was part of a drive to get the darkroom knocked into shape again so I can do some printing. I know that long-time readers will be fed up hearing about this sort of thing but we moved from a big house to a much smaller one three years ago and it's been murder trying to fit everything in.

Plus, we just recently ripped down a wall and put in a new kitchen and decanted stuff from that room over-spilled into other areas - mainly my man cave and darkroom. But! But!! I'm all ready to get my fingers stinking of fixer again as everything is looking good now and the enlargers and work surfaces have all been cleaned and dusted in readiness for some darkroom work.

I'm going to concentrate on some of my more recent 35mm work, some of which I've already posted on the blog via the scanner, and then onto the medium format stuff. Having just written a "Back to the Future" post (see previous post), I'm about to experience the same feeling all over again. Possibly my most productive period when I was concentrating entirely on the image and didn't bother about gear was about 20 years ago when I was using, almost exclusively, an old beat-up Mamiya Press and printing the 6x9cm negs on a 1950s Blumfield Masterprinter enlarger.

If you've been paying attention, you can't have missed the fact that I'm back using a Mamiya Press and now I'm about to start printing on another Blumfield Masterprinter, courtesy of a generous guy who gave me a film drying cabinet and said if I didn't take his Blumfield it would be going in a skip. The Blumfield came with a 5x4 negative carrier but, with the help and advice of Phil Rogers, we've worked out a way of using it for 6x9 negs so I'll soon be back doing almost exactly what I was doing in the late 1990s.

I'm not exactly sure how that leaves me feeling, to be honest. Is it a good thing to return to a previous way of working? Or should I be concentrating on the present - if not the future - and taking advantage of more modern equipment? I suppose the proof of the pudding will, as usual, be in the eating.

6 comments :

Allan Castle said...

I like the photo a lot. It has great mood and nice lighting. I have a Crown Graphic and 135mm lens. I think there is a special quality you can get from a 4x5 negative and the old optics. Also beautiful tones.

Elliot said...

Press on with your lovely analog work. Thanks for sharing.

Herman Sheephouse said...

That's a really nice image Bruce - it looks like it could have been taken in the '40's or 50's, but in a good way.

As for gear, well, I have come to the conclusion that too much of it actually distracts you from the process and isn't necessarily a good thing - as you know I am trying to slim things down myself . . might even ditch 35mm altogether simply because I get very little pleasure from it.
The Mamiya and Blumfield? - go with your gut, if you are enjoying using them and the results speak to you, then throw everything into that. Bring on the prints!

Unknown said...

I like the final image a lot . . . It inspires me.

I have recently returned to analog film when I retired a few years ago. I am using a Hasselblad 500c and using mostly tri x. Looking forward to more of your blog.

MartyNL said...

A very atmospheric photo Bruce.

morris 1800 said...

A great shot Bruce full of atmosphere. Love the detail captured in the frosted glass windows-well processed. Hope you checked out that chair for the odd sixpence or two:)