Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Dark Days II

My struggles with the local landscape continue....

Some photographs taken recently with an old Olympus OM1 that has been lurking in the cupboard unused for a number of years. It feels strange to be using a lightweight 35mm film camera after lugging around medium format or digital SLRs. I used film that has been in the fridge for about 5 years but it seemed to have suffered no ill effects.  Film used was Ilford FP4 which is supposed to be very fine grain but on scanning the negatives, the grain seems to be quite pronounced.  I think this may have more to do with the scanning process than anything else but will only be able to tell when I print them out.

When shooting with black and white film I normally 'pull' the film i.e expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights which gives more control over the contrast. The film is rated at half its normal ISO so a slower shutter speed or wider aperture is needed, giving more detail in the shadows. During processing the developer is diluted more, slowing the development process down. At the same time the developing time is cut and as the highlights develop first, they are less likely to be blown-out. This process is fine when using a faster film rated at 400 ISO but with the slower FP4 rated at 125 ISO, halving it would make it unworkable without a tripod. As these pictures were taken near dusk, they are quite dark anyway, so I decided to rate the film at its usual ISO - consequently some of the highlights in the sky look quite blown to me. The only solution would be to take a tripod with me which is not the way I normally like to work outdoors.

Some of these shots are similar to ones I took a few weeks ago with the iPhone. You can compare them here. Seeing these scanned images on the screen they look a bit woolly and seem to lack presence, but perhaps when I print some of them out I will get a better idea of their quality. The advantages of the 35mm film camera is its portability but for me, this is outweighed by the difficulties working with the fiddly small negatives. Compared with the lovely large negatives from the medium-format cameras, they seem very meagre indeed!

The question also remains, what is it I am looking for whilst photographing the landscape?  It is not my usual subject matter of choice but recently I have been giving a lot of thought to the things that tie you to a particular place.  With some people it is their roots, their community, their past, their heritage - a sense of belonging. My own ties to the location are less easy to identify but in making these studies of the landscape I hope to come up with an answer.

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