Tag Archives: monochrome

The Wide Open Spaces of Infinite Darkness

I feel I owe those of you who follow me on Twitter for my photography an apology for the paucity of images in recent months – this is entirely due to the stress of recent months at work, as I mentioned in my last posting (Preview: The Wide Open Spaces of Infinite Darkness).  It seems almost perverse that such experiences could be the inspiration for a series of images that really speak to me.

I have now posted the complete set – 22 images – of The Wide Open Spaces of Infinite Darkness online, my first substantial complete set of images since 1. February this year.  It is a dark and lonely set of images that reflect an abstract interior landscape of the self, but I hope they will be of interest to some of you, and not just to me!  Click on the image to be taken to the page:

The Wide Open Spaces of Infinite Darkness 14

The Wide Open Spaces of Infinite Darkness 14

All were made on a Nikon FM2 with a 28mm lens, on a film emulsion that is new to me, but very beautiful: Neopan Acros 100.  I might still tend towards Ilford’s FP4+ or Delta 100, but the Acros is definitely a film I will use again.

Advertisements

Normal views and wide views

Many photographers lust after new cameras and lenses.  Indeed, many spend more time lusting after new equipment than they do consummating – err… working on the relationship they have with the cameras and lenses they already own.

For my large format camera I have one lens.  It is a 180mm lens, and that roughly corresponds to a ‘normal lens’, i.e. one that has about the same perspective as the human eye, or, in 35mm terms, it is about the same as a 50mm lens.  It’s a very fine lens, but there are times when I want a lens with a wider view (say, 90mm), and another with a telephoto view, such as a 300mm.  It is simply(!) finances that preclude me from buying these lenses, I lust after them all the same…

So what to do when trying to make an image that would benefit from a wider view?  In July I made a series of photographs on a very foggy morning at Glen More on the Isle of Mull.  I was trying to photograph the glen near the edge of a lochan in the valley, whilst showing something of the scale of the valley – but the 180mm lens only covered about half of the valley.  So one of my studies involved a triple exposure, moving the camera round a little at a time to include one side of the valley, the bottom of the valley, and the other side.  The ground glass of the large format camera includes grids and markers for various purposes, so it was relatively easy to measure this out.  I think the resulting image manages to communicate something of my view of the scene that morning:

Glen More, Isle of Mull (Ilford FP4+, triple exposure)

Glen More, Isle of Mull (Ilford FP4+, triple exposure)

The use of a 90mm lens would have enabled me to capture the entire breadth of the glen, but the image would have been different: is it important that the image doesn’t ‘look like’ the glen did?  For me this communicates what I saw, even though the hills are not really this precise shape.  I would still like to have a wider lens, but my lusting after such a lens has lessened somewhat since seeing the interesting and rather pleasing result that can be achieved with just the 180mm lens that I already have – in this context it was perfectly possible to communicate the image in my head using the equipment I already had.

 

Playing with Lightroom 4’s black and white conversion

I don’t convert many colour images to black and white. In general if I want a black and white image, I tend to use black and white film. I know that there are many people who use specialist conversion software, but given the cost of this kind of thing, I’ve never been that keen on going down this route.

Incoming storm, by Loch Scridain, Isle of Mull (click image to see larger version)

Incoming storm, by Loch Scridain, Isle of Mull (click image to see larger version)

However, I think the new version of Adobe’s Lightroom (we’re at version 4 now) has improved the black and white conversion processing no end. I installed it yesterday, and today I played with an image from a visit to Mull last autumn that I have tried to convert to black and white several times, but never in a way that I was really happy with. Perhaps it just needed multiple experimentations, but I do have a sense that it was considerably easier to achieve this result in version 4 of Lightroom than in version 3. I’m not sure I’m completely finished with it as I wonder if it’s maybe a little bit too dark, but it certainly now represents more of how I felt the landscape, the clouds and the weather appeared to me at the time – the fast-moving storm from the loch off picture to the left, across to the mountains. It corresponds to how I envisaged the image turning out when I took it. A minute or two after squeezing the shutter, I was back in my car, as the rain hammered down.

I don’t normally find software releases very exciting, but it seems to me that Lightroom 4 is a significant improvement on version 3. And if you want to get it at a reduced cost, Adobe has it on offer at a cheaper price at the moment to mark the release…

PS In case you’re interested in these things, the photograph was taken on a Nikon D90 with a 10-24mm lens at 24mm (that’s equivalent to 36mm in full frame terms).

On the beach with the Rolleiflex

20120108-085440.jpg

What is there not to like about winter? I fell out of bed at 7:15 and was on the beach at the bottom of the road twenty minutes later – marvellous! In the summer, I’d have to be up at some horrific time to do the same thing (and the light isn’t so good…).

It was lovely to watch and photograph (sort of) the sunrise, seeing the light change and transform the shapes on the beach. I wasn’t too interested in the sun itself, of course, but the patterns of the beach and the water on black and white film will hopefully work.

I wasn’t the only one out there: apart from the perennial dog-walkers, two other folks with cameras and tripods were on the beach. Of course, I felt terribly superior: they had some new-fangled digital camera-thingy, whereas I was using my 60-year old Rolleiflex TLR… and now I’m off home to breakfast (whisper it: and to my digital camera for some family photos later on!).

Tomorrow morning… beachscapes with the Rolleiflex

The weather is looking good for early tomorrow morning, and so I think I’ll take the old Rolleiflex down to the beach and try out some monochrome beachscapes (I have Ilford 125 film in it just now).

Tomorrow's forecast!

Tomorrow's forecast!

And I must start getting my film developed – I have rolls from October 2011 and perhaps even earlier waiting here! I know that I should, of course, start developing my film myself… that will come…

First experiments with scanning medium format film

Yesterday my Epson V700 arrived – purchased specifically so that I could scan my images from the Mamiya and Rolleiflex.  I plan on this being by day-to-day scanner, with really special images being sent to Tim Parkin.

First impressions are very good.  The scanner is really solid (and pretty big), though as many others have said, the plastic film holders seem to be very flimsy  – a strange contrast to the heavy scanner.  Even just from one day’s careful use, I’m wondering how long these will last (it feels like a ‘when’ not an ‘if’ question).  Replacements are, apparently, available.  I find it slightly irritating that although a FireWire 400 connection is available, there is no Firewire cable in the box, meaning I need to make do with a USB connection for now (I expect the FW connection to be faster).  Photoshop really struggled with saving these large files (several minutes the first time), but I did have a number of applications open and I don’t have much memory for this kind of thing on my Mac.

Regarding the scans: I have done the typical male thing (according to my wife) and just plunged straight in, scanning some colour transparencies and monochrome negatives.  I had used the monochrome film (Ilford FP4 Plus) before in 35mm form so had some idea of what to expect, though I didn’t know exactly how the Rollei would impact on it, and my use of my lightmeter obviously needed to be up to scratch.  The colour transparency film was completely new to me: Fuji Provia 100F, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect; this was shot using the Mamiya and mostly using the camera’s meter, rather than relying on my lightmeter.

So, with auto sharpening, broadly similar settings (though I am intrigued that the Silverfast software has a specific setting for the Ilford film, which I used) and general playfulness, I think I can say with some certainty that buying the Epson was a good choice.  Here are two images that I have scanned yesterday at 6400dpi, along with 100% sections – this is not necessarily the best dpi to choose, but the files were already coming in at around 500mb with this size, and for playing I didn’t want even bigger files as they just slow everything down.  I don’t want to make excuses but these are the first (monochrome/Rollei) and second (colour/Mamiya) rolls I have shot on these new (to me) cameras.  I can see from other scans that I need to work on greater stability for the Mamiya when I’m not using a tripod – it’s heavier than I think, and perhaps my recently injured arm means it’s harder to hold still at slower shutter speeds.  Neither of these images have had any post-processing.

With this first image of my friend Toni (taken on the spur of the moment in a pub garden, and yes, that is a fresh pint in front of her!), if you can ignore the fact I didn’t have e.g. a yellow filter with me, there is clearly a richness in the tones that does just what I would expect the Ilford to do – and the Epson scanner captures the depth of these tones rather well, I think.

Ilford FP4 Plus/Rollleiflex

Ilford FP4 Plus/Rollleiflex

And here we have a 100% detail of the edge of Toni’s glasses.  It’s hard to know if I had focussed entirely accurately (almost certainly not, and depth of field was very shallow; I think I was resting the camera on the garden table as I had no tripod with me), but even so, I find the definition reasonably ok (bear in mind that at 100% and the more usual 300dpi, these images would be enormous!).

Ilford FP4 Plus/Rolleiflex

Ilford FP4 Plus/Rolleiflex

Here is the Provia, first the image as a whole (which, if I use it, I will ultimately crop, rather than leave at this size/aspect ratio):

Fuji Provia 100F/Mamiya

Fuji Provia 100F/Mamiya

And here is an excerpt at 100%, which again shows considerable definition (and the tif file shows good shadow detail – some of which seems to have got lost in the conversion to the jpg file):

Fuji Provia 100F/Mamiya

Fuji Provia 100F/Mamiya

I’m not sure I like the Provia 100F that much, but perhaps that is because the colours didn’t quite come out the way I thought they would; everything seems to have a slightly purple tinge, even when there is no obvious purple in the scene as there is here; I think that is very unlikely to be the scanner.  In any case, I look forward to using the Velvia I recently bought – I already ‘know’ the Velvia from 35mm photography (the Provia was given to me by the same person who is passing on the Mamiya – he had it in the fridge but never really got around to using it, so it is quite old and maybe not at its best).

My preliminary conclusions: getting consistently decent scans will require some effort, as well as consultation with the manuals (don’t tell my wife!).  But early results are certainly promising, and working with something like the Epson V700 will be enjoyable, I think; the time needed to learn how to do scans properly is perfectly normal (I expect to learn how to use a new camera, so why not a scanner?). There are some early niggles: for example, I would like to use a different colour space/ICC profile: I’m using the recommended proPhoto RGB in Lightroom as Adobe itself says this is better than Adobe RGB, and yet the scanner defaults to this older setting (somewhere in the manual there must be something on this…!).  Above all, using something as good as this Epson scanner will require me to produce much better images in camera to get the best out of the scanner – and creating better images is, after all, what this is all meant to be about!

‘Imperfect Mirrors’ book available

‘Imperfect Mirrors’ by Kevin Scully is soon to be released (2. July) and is now available for ordering, e.g. from Amazon.  This is the book with my photograph on the cover (clicking the image takes you to the Amazon page):

Kevin Scully: Imperfect Mirrors

Kevin Scully: Imperfect Mirrors

I sent the designer/publisher three versions of the image, one in colour and two monochrome conversions – and they have chosen my favourite of the two monochrome versions.  I’m delighted to see this now available, as is my wonderful model, Fran Whitton.