Another Still Life Print

Here is another addition to an ongoing collection of Still life Photographs. My subject this time was very small and delicate and I wanted to accentuate these characteristics using pieces of glass and a shallow depth of field.

Yellow Fumitory 10×8″ – Shot using a Mamiya RB67 with 50mm on Ilford HP5.
Printed 10×8 on Ilford FB Warmtone gloss

Thanks for taking a look,
Mike

Classic Cars on a Drizzly Day

A while ago, An acquaintance on mine (a classic car enthusiast) invited me to come along to an upcoming public meet up of a classic car group that he belonged to. Being an admirer of most things deemed ‘classic’, I happily accepted the invitation.

There were many cars from different eras ranging from the 1930’s up until the 90’s. Among them were various examples of my favourite car – The Morris Minor. I did take some images of the Minors which maybe I’ll share on here at a later date.

The image I am posting today is of the beautiful interior of this luxurious old limousine. I love how the light hits the leather bench seat and the glass partition. The flowers are a nice touch too…

Afternoon Drive – Shot with Olympus OM1 & 50mm F1.8 on Ilford HP5
Printed 10×7 on Ilford RC Pearl

Thanks for taking a look,
Mike

A couple of Still Life Prints

I am currently working on this set of prints, It’s a work in progress. They will be very similar in style but the subjects will be a variety of different flora, selected for their interesting aesthetic qualities.

Here are a couple of Prints that I finished recently.

Lilium 10×8″ – Shot with Ilford HP5 on Mamiya RB67 with 90mm Sekor C.
Printed on Ilford FB MG Warmtone gloss
.
Species Unknown 10×8″ – Shot with Ilford HP5 on Mamiya RB67 with 50mm Sekor C.
Printed on Ilford FB MG Warmtone gloss.

Thanks for taking a look,
Mike

3 Prints of Liverpool Waterfront

A couple of months ago I visited Liverpool and found myself immersed in beautiful architecture and fascinating history. It is also a must for Beatles fans like myself.

The Waterfront is an excellent place to take a stroll with a camera (or two). So armed with an OM-1 and OM-2 both loaded with Fomapan 400, we set off.

In this post I will share a few prints I have made from the photos taken that day.


First up is this photo taken from aboard a Mersey ferry. Cruising the River Mersey aboard one of these iconic Ferries was wonderful experience. We took the first boat out that day (10am as I recall…) and there were only a handful of other passengers which allowed me to walk about the deck relatively unhindered to get the shots that I wanted. I caught sight of this view as we returned towards Liverpool, framed by the windows of the ferry itself.

Liverpool from a Mersey Ferry. 10×8 silver gelatin print

This photo was taken with my OM-2 on Fomapan 400 shot at 1600 ASA. Fomapan 400 is a very interesting film, It has a “classic” look. In my experience when compared to a film like HP5+, there is not much detail to be found in the shadows and the blacks are black, which can cause a print to naturally take on the look of a Bill Brandt image which is cool.

This print required a small amount of burning in to the sky area. Printed at grade 4 on Ilford RC Pearl.


Next is this photo of the old Great Western Railway warehouse. What I like about this view is the modern 21st century RIBA north building looming high behind the old Victorian warehouses. Liverpool’s architecture is diverse and stunning. This photo was shot at 400 ASA on my Olympus OM-1.

Great Western Railway Warehouse, Liverpool. Silver gelatin print 10×7

This print was also fairly straightforward, the sky required an extra 10 seconds of burning to retain detail in the clouds. Printed at grade 4 on Ilford RC pearl.


My last print to share with you is this photo of the Port of Liverpool building. It was a sunny morning in January and the low, winter sunlight fell beautifully on the majestic early 20th century building which is one of Liverpool’s “Three Graces“.

Port of Liverpool Building. 8×8 silver gelatin print

I rarely print square from 35mm negatives but this photo worked well symmetrically as a square print and was a straight forward 20 second exposure at grade 4.


I really enjoyed my visit to Liverpool and would love to return with a bit more time on my hands. I feel there is plenty of photographic potential there, particularly along the waterfront.

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it and I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Embracing Imperfections

Over the past few years I have become very interested in still life photography and have enjoyed shooting a lot of it. I love the work of artists such as Karl Blossfeldt and Josef Sudek and their work inspired me to notice things about my subjects that I may not had noticed ordinarily: the incredible shapes and forms of everyday objects and how a subtle change in lighting has a huge effect on smaller subjects.

Around August last year I came across an exhibition being held at Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London titled “Unearthed: Photography’s Roots“. The exhibition blurb read “Unearthed traces the rich history of the medium through depictions of nature” and featured works from artists such as Karl Blossfeldt, Josef Sudek, Imogen Cunningham and Ogawa Kazumasa. It sounded too good to miss so I bought a ticket.

The exhibition was extraordinary and I discovered works from artists I had not previously encountered such as the Gardener/Photographer Charles Jones and French Photographer Adolphe Braun. One thing which struck me while staring in awe at these early photographic prints was the beautiful imperfections. These imperfections add character and give the prints a kind of organic, human quality.

I recently acquired a stack of old photographic paper from years back, there was all sorts there but what really caught my eye was a pack of Ilford FB Warm tone 12×9.5 that I thought would be perfect for printing still life photographs.

I knew this paper was old. To put it into perspective, a 10 sheet pack of this paper today costs around 25 GBP. The price sticker on the pack I had obtained was somewhere around 8 GBP. So not only did I expect plenty of curling, maybe some fogging and mottling, I hoped for it!

The Prints

I selected two images that I had printed previously but had not been particularly satisfied with the results.

First up this image of wilting sunflowers. Shot on Ilford FP4 at 125 ASA using a Mamiya RB67. Printed on Ilford FB Warmtone.

Here is my first set of test strips for this image. I printed the strips at 5 second intervals (5,10,15,20,25). The second strip in (10) looked about right to me but maybe a tiny bit on the darker side. I resolved to produce a small control print at 8 seconds.

So here is the 8 second control print. I thought it looked a little weak here and there so decided to go for the original 10 second exposure of the strip I liked on the tests.

The Final Print

Wilting Sunflowers. 10×8 silver gelatin print

I am really happy with this print. It is exactly the look I was trying to achieve.


Next is this photo of Oriental Lily leaves and a Daisy. Shot on Ilford HP5 at 400 ASA using a Mamiya RB67. Printed on Ilford FB Warmtone.

Once again for this set of test strips I printed 5 second intervals (5,10,15,20,25) with an exposure of 15 seconds producing the best results. I knew from a previous print of this photo that the Daisy ( which you can’t see on the test strip) would need a bit of burning in so I decided to burn that area for an extra 10 seconds.

The Final Print

Oriental Lily Leaves & Daisy. 10×8 silver gelatin print.

I also loved the way this print came out. Again, just the look I was after and this print had the added elements of the uneven developing, fogging and mottling. All of which just add to the overall look of the print in my opinion.


I really enjoyed this printing experience. The process felt creative and experimental with not knowing how the final print would turn out. I was hoping for imperfections and to produce prints similar in style to that of the artists who inspired me at the Unearthed exhibition and I believe that I have achieved just that.
I like the sunflower print a lot and will probably take this to be framed (I do this with most of my favourite prints).

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.
I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Random Print – Doors in Disrepair

At the end of a long day of walking, with aching feet and feeling generally fatigued I caught sight of these poor old doors down a small side street. The bag on my back was laden with heavy Mamiya gear. Feeling pretty exhausted, I wasn’t going to bother taking my bag off to get the RB67 out to take the shot. Luckily, in my hand was the trusty old OM-1 and as I advanced the film to the next frame, the number 24 appeared in the frame counter window. That was handy. Had I not had the OM-1 in my hands at the time, I probably wouldn’t have bothered taking this shot at all which would have been a shame as the print has become a favourite of mine. The fact that it was the last shot on the roll, well, I guess it was meant to be.

Printing was fairly straight forward. The main importance to me was to keep as much detail as possible while avoiding a flat or dark looking print. The negative did require a high contrast grade (4.5) as it was a fairly flat image to start with. With the enlarger lens set to f5.6, the overall exposure time was 30 seconds. I then had to expose for another 5 seconds while dodging the bottom right area of the photo and finally a 10 second burn on the panels to the top of the image, Just to bring out some of the texture.

The Final Print

Doors in Disrepair. 10×7″ silver gelatin print.

This photo was shot on Ilford HP5 at box speed of 400 asa. Developed in Xtol and printed on Ilford RC Pearl Paper.

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it and I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Local Landscape – Spotting a Print

The entire process of analogue photography and printing is one full of variables and occasional surprises.
Mishaps are not uncommon. I am guessing that most, if not all of those out there who develop and print their own work have experienced some kind of technical issue or setback along the way.

The photo I will be sharing with you today was taken on a local walk during the spring/summer of 2020. I was travelling light with just my Yashica mat loaded with a roll of FP4 and my trusty Sekonic Twinmate.
The sun was dropping and there were interesting things happening in the sky, as I climbed the sea wall, I turned to see incredible clouds and a brilliant glow bouncing off the water. I composed the shot, took a light reading and fired the shutter.

While inspecting the developed negative, I unfortunately discovered some kind of residue had attached itself to the film at some point. To this day I have no idea what caused this. I consulted a friend of mine with a wealth of experience. We explored every avenue but could not work out the cause.
I put the negative away from some time, reluctant to print it. Nowadays I tend to not let these things bother me too much so I resolved to work on a print with the intention of “spotting” the obvious marks on the print.

Here are the first test strips. I started at 10 seconds and exposed in 10 second increments (10,20,30,40,50). From this test print I determined that my exposure for the land and water part of the image was going to need to be somewhere very close to 10 seconds so I then produced more tests from 10 seconds adding a second each time (10,11,12,13,14). From this print I decided on an exposure time of 12 seconds.

If you look at both sets of tests you can see some of the white marks on the grass on the left of the print.

Next was to find out the correct exposure time for the sky. From the small part of sky at the top of the previous tests, I thought 30 seconds would be a good time to work around so I produced a strip of 20,25,30,35,40 seconds. 35 seemed about right to me so I was all set to make the first print. (Note: the test strips of the sky are slightly blurry as I moved the Paterson test strip maker at some point when making the print)

The first print turned out really well and to my surprise, I wasn’t actually too bothered about the white marks dotted around the print though they were distracting. So armed with a set of nylon fine detail brushes and a set of dusty old ‘Spotone’ retouching colours I set to work spotting the print.

I used the border of the print to test different tones. Lighter shades are achieved by diluting with water.

The two images below show a kind of before and after example of the print while being spotted. The areas look obvious here but did blend quite nicely when dry.

The Final Print

So there we have it. Although my spotting work leaves much to be desired, I feel I have saved the print.
After all, I am left with a print that I am really happy with, warts and all.

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it and I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Tea or Coffee? – An English Country Garden

In this article I will be using Tea & Coffee to tone prints of two photos taken in the beautiful gardens of Somerleyton Hall, a 19th century country house in the County of Suffolk.

Both Photographs were shot on Ilford HP5 at 400 ASA, Developed in Xtol and printed on Ilford RC Pearl Paper.

Using Tea & Coffee is a cheap and relatively eco-friendly method to add tone to a print and the results can be fantastic.

I started off with this photo that I had already printed on a previous occasion that I thought would really benefit from a warm tone. As I had already printed this image I did not need to produce any test strips or control prints and I just followed my notes from the previous printing session.

Stretching down one side of the walled garden at Somerleyton, there are two lovely old wooden framed greenhouses. I came across this door hidden beneath a canopy engulfed in climbing plants. All was silent save for the hum of insects and birdsong. This was a place where you could just sit and let time run away from you.

As you can see from the images below, The prints did require some dodging to maintain detail in some darker areas of the photo.

So with 3 identical prints produced, I served the beverages in trays and set about dunking some prints in!

I left the prints submerged in the trays for 45 minutes, agitating occasionally to ensure even toning.

Once out of the brews, I gave each print a final rinse before hanging up to dry.

Here are the three different prints pictured below. From left to right:
No Toning, Tea, Coffee

As you can see, the effect on the ‘Tea-Toned’ print is much more subtle than that of the Coffee. I like both but I think I prefer the Coffee.


Next up is the image below

The next photo to be treated to a caffeinated bath is this photo of flowers on the outside of the same greenhouse.

What first caught my eye and prompted me to take this shot was the windows trailing off to the right of the frame with the open window really standing out. When composing the photo, these small flowers in the foreground kept turning my head and ultimately became the focus of the shot. Though my eye seems to be drawn to windows .

Using the same contrast grade as the previous image, I produced two lots of test strips; one for the foreground and another for the windows. Starting on 20 seconds, each step I added 10 seconds of exposure (20,30,40,50,60)

The I settled on an overall exposure of 30 seconds plus a 10 second burn on the window area.

I printed 3 copies of the photo.

Here they are in the trays receiving their toning for 45 minutes. Might as well put the kettle on…

And here they are all washed and dried. From left to right:
No Toning, Tea, Coffee

Again, I think the Coffee is a winner here.

So there we have it, toning prints with Tea & Coffee. The results are varied and different to the look you would get from conventional Selenium or Sepia toners but I think as an alternative, cheap way of toning prints both work well. The tea is very subtle and does add a nice gentle warmth to the prints though I thought a couple of areas of the print looked a little patchy, maybe more agitation was needed…
The Coffee toned prints came out beautifully and both prints that were toned with coffee were my favourites.

The final results I envisioned when starting these particular prints were very much inspired by the tonality of Pictorialism movement photographer Alfred Stieglitz and also the beautiful work of Josef Sudek.

Here are the finished Prints below:

Entrance to the greenhouse. 10×7 silver gelatin print. Coffee toned
Flowers at Somerleyton. 10×7 silver gelatin print. Coffee toned

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.
I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Random print – Air pressure gauge

On a stroll around a local antiques market, I happened upon this old air pressure gauge against a rustic old petrol sign outside of a motorcycle museum. A depiction of a bygone era of motoring.

The photo was shot on HP5 film at box speed of 400 ASA. Developed in Xtol and printed on Ilford RC Pearl paper.

After a couple of test strips, I printed the first image (bottom). I felt there was more to bring out in the old sign behind so printed a second time and exposed the background for an extra 5 seconds. As you can see, there is much more detail this time but I feel that the pressure gauge now gets slightly lost as doesn’t stand out enough.

So, now that both prints are dry, I think I prefer the version without the burnt in background. Although I really like the grunge and drama of the darker one, the pressure gauge is the main focal point and I prefer it to not get lost in the image.

Maybe I could produce another print at some point that is somewhere in between. Watch this space…

The Final Print

Relic of Motoring – 10×7 silver gelatin print.

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it and I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Keld, Yorkshire

On the 10th October 2021 I went on a short walking weekend to the Yorkshire Dales. The Dales is a beautiful place to visit and is fantastic for walking. In this post, I will be taking you through the process of printing this very challenging Photo from negative to finished print.

Keld/Muker OS map

I wanted to visit the Keld/Muker area for a few reasons but mainly for the classic Yorkshire views of old barns and dry stone walls that can be had from up high on kisdon hill and through the fields around Muker. So I plotted a 6 mile route from Keld to Muker and back to Keld again and off we went. It was a fantastic sunny October morning.

The Photo I will be discussing here was actually the last exposure that I took that morning and It was a challenge to shoot. I had to stand on a rock and lean against the dry stone wall to get the angle I wanted as I was using my Mamiya RB67 with waist level finder (I try to keep the weight down on these walks and the prism finder weighs a ton! I also hate carrying a tripod and avoid it where I can). The photo was shot on Kodak Tri-X at box speed of 400, developed in Xtol and printed on Ilford Multi-grade RC Pearl paper.

As you can see from the negative, there is part of the wall I was leaning against in the bottom left of the photo. I did not want this on the final print so I knew at the time of shooting there needed to be some cropping going on in the darkroom.

I knew this photo would be difficult to print just by looking at the negative. I would want to retain the detail in the foreground wall and the barn and also have a correctly exposed rest of the print and sky. This means a lot of masking and dodging/burning which will make it a really fun print to produce!

With negative loaded into the carrier I set the easel mask to 16×12 and start to work out the cropping.

After producing a few test strips, it is now time to work out how much time to expose each section.

Using the enlarger settings of f-11 at grade 4.5 I determined the following exposure times:

  • Overall exposure of 12 seconds
  • + 13 seconds while dodging the foreground wall and side of the barn
  • + 8 second burn on roof of the barn (the edges of the roof are very dense on the negative so would probably be blown out on the print but this does add some drama!)
  • +45 second burn on the sky (I exposed for somewhere between the fore ground and middle ground when shooting, confident that I could achieve plenty of detail in the sky when enlarging)

The above photos show how I managed to mask the certain areas that need it. It may seem a bit long winded cutting out bits of card to achieve this but I really enjoy this part of printing. (note: there is no print on the easel mask while taking these photos as the light from my phone would fog the print plus taking photos while doing this would be a bit of a challenge!)

So here is the print fresh out of this fixer. I am really pleased with how it came out. I knew I wanted this to be a high contrast print and there is so many tones, shadows and bursts of highlights. (note: the white line is a reflection from the print being wet)

Now lets get it washed and let it dry!

The Final Print

Just outside Keld, Yorkshire.

The Yorkshire Dales are an amazing place to visit, particularly if you like walking, If you haven’t visited before, I certainly recommend it!

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it and I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Maldon

A walk along the promenade on a cold and grey November afternoon. Maldon, one of the oldest recorded towns in Essex, is situated on the Blackwater estuary and is famous for its Sea Salt, Thames Barges at Hythe Quay and The Maldon Mud Race. 

The photographs in this post were all shot on Ilford FP4 at box speed (125) and Ilford HP5 at box speed (400). Developed in Kodak Xtol and Printed on Ilford Multigrade RC Pearl.

The first image I printed is this view of the River Chelmer with tired looking row boats resting on the mud in the foreground and beautiful Thames barges moored to the left.

I produced two test strips. The top was printed in grade 3 and the bottom in grade 4. I preferred the look of the grade 4 and decided to produce a control print at 30 seconds.

The control print came out pretty good but straight away there were a couple of things that I wanted to work on. I felt the sky needed a bit more detail as well as the river bank on the right of the image so I planned to burn this area in on the next print. I also wanted to do something about that reflection in the river to the bottom right of the image.

The image below shows the control print next to the new print with all the necessary dodging & burning achieved. I feel the added detail in the sky and softening of that dark area in the water makes a world of difference!

The Final Print:

The River Chelmer, Maldon. November 2021. 10×7 silver gelatin print

Next up is this Image of the Barge yards next to river.

I took a bit of a chance with this print and was quite lucky that the first print I produced became the final. I made some test strips for the main focus of the image, these work benches, and based on experience, inclination (and frankly a bit of a gamble), I managed to expose the rest of the print without having to produce more tests.

I exposed the whole image for 35 seconds then exposed the upper part of the image (just about the upside down boat) for a further 20 seconds.

The Final Print:

Barge yard, Maldon. November 2021. 10×8 silver gelatin print

The last photograph from this little walk through Maldon is this shot of the statue of Byrhtnoth, an Ealdorman of Essex who led locals to defend the land from viking invaders and died on 11 August 991 at the Battle of Maldon.

The Final Print:

Statue of Byrhtnoth, Maldon. November 2021. 10×8 silver gelatin print

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you would like to get in touch please comment below.