This is exciting…

… though probably mostly to me! 🙂

On 5. January this year my wife and I were in Strathpeffer, and in the morning we went to the nearby Rogie Falls.  I decided to go back there in the afternoon on my own and try to capture a scene I had noticed in the morning.  A bit of a miscalculation in terms of timing (err… yes, I know, Scottish winter…!) meant that it was rather late in the day to do this, but I was keen to persevere, so I set up the Chamonix looking down into a little gorge.  I started setting up at about 14:45, had a composition I was vaguely satisfied with at 15:15 bearing in mind the decreasing light levels, and took a series of light readings.  I was mortified to find that any reasonable chance of a decent exposure would necessitate at least 30 minutes by the time I included the film’s reciprocity failure.  ‘Never mind,’ I thought, ‘FP4 has plenty of latitude!’ and went for it.  By 15:45, I could barely see anything in the woods around me.  So I decided that another 15 minutes would do no harm, meaning the exposure was 45 minutes long.  It then also started raining which was a good motivator to move on, and I could only pack up and find all my bits and pieces by getting out the head-torch (one of the most useful things to have in a camera bag!).

I finally managed to get the film to the lab and picked it up today.  The resulting negative is slightly under-exposed (another 5-10 minutes would no doubt have helped), but it is perfectly usable with some relatively minor adjustments to levels and curves:

Rogie Falls, Chamonix, Fujinon 180mm, Ilford FP4, f22, 45 minutes

Rogie Falls, Chamonix, Fujinon 180mm, Ilford FP4, f22, 45 minutes

My first reaction to the image is two-fold.  I think it does represent the balance between tremendous chaos and small signs of order that I felt in the woods: all these twisty branches contrasting with the clear white trunks and branches.  I like the way the whiteness of the tree trunks directs my eyes – I can remember seeing this and wanting to achieve precisely that.  And yet I am not completely happy with the composition: the gorge with the fallen-down tree feels a bit lost as the trees on the left dominate the foreground.  I could crop the image to exclude the large tree on the left, but then the other smaller trees seem a bit irrelevant and the white trunks almost seems less prominent – perhaps the large tree is not so much a dominant tree as a counterweight to the thin white lines?

In any case: this is all very exciting for me, because it is the very first large format image I have taken completely on my own, AND I managed to use tilt and movements successfully in achieving reasonable focus across the frame.  I wanted it to be a technically decent image, and it does enough of that for me to be confident to continue what I’m doing, even if it is not (yet?) that emotionally engaging for me.  It may have taken me half-an-hour to set up, it may have been too late in the day to use a sensible exposure time, and it may not be perfectly composed – but I am very happy!

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8 thoughts on “This is exciting…

  1. John Williamson (@bigtalljohnny)

    I return to MF after 30 years this weekend so it will all be a surprise and that slow life sort of suits me now. Congratulations on getting the image despite the hassle, the question to ask is how much did you learn to make the next image.

    1. Michael Marten Post author

      Thanks, John. Apart from not starting too late in the day, I do think I have learnt about focus and so on. This is not my first LF image (just the first on my own): I went on a workshop with Dav Thomas and Tim Parkin, and have also been out with Mike Colechin (who helped me set up). So I feel I am learning all the time.
      I was out a week or two ago photographing windmills with the LF, and am about to scan those in. I took a conscious decision not to make more than four additional images until I had seen how I was doing. I’ll see how the scans turn out!
      I had almost always used film alongside digital, but going to MF was a great move in terms of slowing down, and it make it all so much more enjoyable for me. Perhaps that’s just a sign I’m ill-disciplined – after all, there’s nothing to say digital has to be fast, is there?!

  2. John Williamson (@bigtalljohnny)

    I am teaching my daughter to use a camera and I have disabled the autofocus and limited the capacity by using a small cf card, we don’t use preview and she is doing very well with returning trips to retry shots that haven’t worked just like the old film days. She is learning to look before pressing the shutter.I think we all lose a bit of image focus when working on new hardware and the process of teaching her helps us both. I have decided like yourself to limit how many shots are hidden on the film so I will have 2 rolls/20 images max. The biggest change is going back to use a light meter and it makes you think far more without a historgram available, I have been using it on my d3 with filters

    1. Michael Marten Post author

      That sounds like a very good plan, and very disciplined of both you and your daughter. I found that harder with digital – but self-discipline is not something I always excel at. 😦

  3. Duncan Fawkes (@duncanfawkes)

    Congrats! You should be pleased. When you’re starting out on something new and in particular on your own then I think the focus is almost entirely on developing the craft rather than worrying about the actual result too much. It’s good that you’ve got something you’re reasonably satisfied with, and I’m sure you’ll get the knack to make images you’re more happy with. And ye, not shooting in the dark might help 😉

    I think there’s much to be said for the slower, more methodical approach your LF gear necessitates. When I’m shooting well into twilight (or with a *whisper* big stopper) I find I use a much slower, more methodical and considered process that I wish I could adopt all the time. Mind, at 45 minutes even I would be getting bored… 😉

    Yes a head torch is a vital piece of gear. I often find myself staying out ’til it’s really quite dark so it’s not just for finding stuff in low light but for safety. I also carry a backup torch and a mini-LED torch just in case. My headtorch has a habit of switching itself on in my bag and draining the battery…

    Good luck with it!

    1. Michael Marten Post author

      Yes, 45 minutes in the growing darkness is not something I need to repeat on a regular basis! As for torches, I have the head-torch in my camera bag, and I’ve also got a mini one in my pocket, and if I’m going to be in the dark, I take a solar one that is on the car dashboard with me too.

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