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The making of a print: Energiecentrale

A while ago I asked some followers on Twitter what they would like to see more of on the blog and one exclaimed ‘photos!’. And I agree, there should indeed be a few more of my own photos on this blog. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at a print I made past Sunday.

Figure 1: The shot lined up, ready to shoot.

During my Christmas break we had exactly 2 days that were not wet and cloudy, and the weather was actually quite nice on this day. I live not far from an old power plant that is no longer in operation full time, and on my walk back from the bakery I passed by the building. As of late I am working on a series where I go look for more abstract elements in buildings in my area. Buildings and landscapes are patient subjects and with some patience of the photographer can yield interesting images.  With this in mind, I noticed the graphic potential of these large windows, something that I had not given due consideration before. Early in the afternoon I went back with my field camera and a tripod to see what I could make of it. I particularly liked the imperfect symmetry with one of the pipes missing. Because of the water and tram tracks that separated me from the building, I eventually ended up on the highest view point nearby at roughly 3 meters above street level. The image was shot with a Toyo 45A and a Nikkor 210mm f/8 lens on Ilford FP4+ rated at EI80 and was exposed for 1/15 s at f/16. I gave the negative N+2 development in Ilford DD-X at standard 1:4 dilution. The negative was a bit denser than I am used too, but perfectly printable and with good shadow detail.

Figure 2: First test strip showing exposures of 5, 10, 20 and 40 seconds.

Past Sunday I finally ended up back in the darkroom for a printing sessions after a few month hiatus. My darkroom gets way too warm in summer, and work kept me from wanting to print during the week days in fall. I wanted to print this image earlier, but after setting up I found out the bottle of Ilford Multigrade had gone bad.

Figure 3: Another test strip to fine tune the exposure time. Using f-stop printing steps of 1/3rd stop I used exposure times of 10 s, 13 s, 16 s, 20 s and 25 s.

In Figures 2 and 3 you find the test strips that I used to dial in the initial exposure. Using the f-stop printing system I started using constant factors between the tested times, rather than constant steps that I used prior. Eventually I ended up picking an exposure time of 16 seconds, where the last three seconds were used to burn in the bottom part of the image to compensate for some uneven exposure caused by the front lens rise I used. The test strips of Figure 3 also covered the bottom part of the image, and quickly taught me that I wanted to go for a square crop on this. The bottom part is messy and didn’t fit the graphic style I had in mind. I also wanted a bit more contrast and made test strips with grades 2.5, 3.5 and 4.5 (Figure 4). I settled on grade 3.5 for now.

Figure 4: Yet another test strip. I started on grade 2.5, but wanted a bit more contrast, so also tried 3.5 and 4.5.

The resulting image cropped to a square is shown in Figure 5. In daylight I gave it roughly an hour of consideration before discarding it. The lamp post in the bottom of the image was bugging me and I didn’t see how to get rid of it in a satisfactory way, other than trying a tighter crop, the result of which is in Figure 6.

Figure 5: Initial crop. I didn’t feel happy with it, and especially hated the lamp post.

The tighter crop puts more emphasis on the strong vertical lines and on the broken symmetry. The higher contrast gives a better impression of the sunny conditions that the image was shot at. This is where I ended the printing session. This print is on Ilford MGIV RC paper with a pearl finish. If I still like the image a few weeks from now, I will give it a try on some fiber based stock.

Figure 6: ‘Final’ print with a tighter crop.

What do you think of the ‘final’ print? And what do you think of this type of post? Is it something I should do more often, or are there specifics you would like to read more about? Leave a message in the comments, send me an email or reach out on Twitter.

Published in Prints

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