During the second week of Warwickshire Open Studios I am creating an exclusive set of limited edition prints that will be exhibited over the last weekend. oh. And i’m going to be shooting, developing and darkroom printing them during the 5 days before.
Are you ready for this? I’m not sure I am…
Shoot · Develop · Print
Day 1 – Monday 25th June
Shoot locations around Coventry and Warwickshire using 35mm, medium format and large format film.
(In black and white of course!)
The preparation started on Sunday night, as soon as the last guest had left from Warwickshire Open Studios I was on the sofa, eating Sunday ‘lunch’ and scanning over google earth picking out locations based on my chosen theme (oh, and maybe, just maybe watching a little of Love Island). I had decided to shoot trees and woodlands with probably with a sunrise shoot (at this time of year this involves getting up at around 4am). And before I knew it the alarm was calling and it was 4:30, driving the almost empty streets and lanes of Warwickshire.
I went to 3 locations in total, a field and 2 woodlands all found by scanning Google Earth (although I had been to one of them before) – this was also the first time I had take the Intrepid 8×10 out with me and had my first sheets of FP4+ loaded and ready to go.
Unsurprisingly, using the 8×10 was a lot slower to use than even 4×5, and it hindered me on this time-pressured shoot, in hindsight I should have left it at home and focused on what I knew.
Still, it was a good test for the process and an opportunity to learn.
At about 1pm I was starting to flag. I thought I would pop home for some lunch and then head out again however the intense heat of the day (29°C) had pushed me over the edge. Given the number of sheets I had shot and pushed/pulled I thought it better to stay in the Darkshed and start developing….
By the end of the day I had my first 8×10 scan and half of the other sheets were drying out – phew, this should make tomorrow a bit more relaxed.
Day 2 – Tuesday 26th June
Develop the film, scan and produce contact prints to select the best shots.
In total it took around 3 hours to develop the large format negatives, there was a mix of Ilford FP4 and HP5 with a a few pulled 1 stop so I was unable to batch them all together.
The first problem occurred when checking my first 8×10 negative after the final wash – there was a chemical stain in the top corner and along the top edge. Although I was gutted, especially as this was my first neg, I went through the process of trying to eliminate why it had happened. For 8×10 negatives I am using the CatLABS CL81 , the other negative that I developed at the same time did not have the issue and after loading a test sheet in the light again it became apparent occasionally it seemed to ‘pop out’ of the reel partially. This then means 2 parts of the film end up pushing against the holder in the same places as these development issues – I think this was the problem but need to investigate more.
After drying and scanning most of the sheets I had to stop developing as I had a workshop booked in, I still had 2 rolls of medium format to develop, although these were more ‘snapshots’ as I was walking around, I’m pretty certain the chosen image(s) will come from the large format shots. Ideally I also wanted to produce some contact prints but that will have to wait for an early start tomorrow morning as part of the final printing process.
Just to note at this point, 8×10 is utterly bonkers. The size of the negative, the effect on the image using such a large format. I certainly need to shoot more with the Intrepid 8×10, but that’s another blog post.
And so after a bit of time looking at the photos, trying out a few different crops /contrast changes in Lightroom I believe I have found the image I’m going to take through to the next stage. I took 2 frames of this scene, at slightly different apertures (and different films) and will produce contact prints tomorrow to see which one I will ultimately use. I will also produce a contact print of the 8×10 shot above.
Day 3+4 – Wednesday 27th and Thursday 18th June
Enlarge the best negative(s) – cropping, adjusting contrast, dodging, burning and split toning to produce the final limited edition prints.
Day 3 – #showyourworking
I knew I wanted to produce large prints of the ‘looking up’ photo, the scan seemed to draw your eyes to the light and I wanted to recreate this effect in the print. For such a large print I started with test ‘strips’ of size 5×7 to help visualise enough of the image in key areas. Once reaching a point I was happy with I proceeded to create a test at full size. Here you can see that dried print with markings ready for dodging an burning tomorrow (complete with dubious shaped dodge on the bottom-left tree trunk!) – I also wasn’t completely happy with the contrast and will do a split-grade test tomorrow also.
Test strips were also produced for the 8×10 negative and is being produced as as a contact print on fibre paper. These were left to dry (and curl) over night.
I feel in a good place to get the final prints done from these which will leave a full day for mounting and retouching.
Today was a slow printing day, took some time to contemplate how I wanted to create and present these Open Studios prints, a couple fo visitors to The Darkshed and some tidying up meant I wasn’t able to do the additional test prints. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day! Starting with a flying visit to AG Photographic to get some supplies and the paper I had decided to use for the 8×10 contact prints…
Not feeling so good about the prints at the end of today, trying to get them as I wish is taking longer than I hoped and I certainly don’t want to rush them just to have something to display at the weekend.
*Sung to Phil Collins – You can’t hurry love*
You can’t rush a print,
No, you just have to wait,
Dodging and burning ain’t easy,
Just let it dry and sit and wait.
You can’t rush a print,
The contrast ain’t so great,
Let’s do a split tone,
And make this print worth the wait.
Day 5 – Friday 29th June
Final retouching and mounting ready for exhibition.
I did one last print last night before heading to bed *cough* watch Love Island *cough*, and this morning it has fully dried. It is so close to what I want from it but it’s time put out the signs, get the kettle on and the biscuits ready for Open Studios once more. Hopefully I will get a gap in visitors ready for the grand reveal tomorrow….
Saturday 30th June + Sunday 1st July
Exhibition and Print Sale
I’ll be updating my progress on this page and via social media (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) so follow along the journey from shoot to print and come and visit me during Open Studios to find out more.
Location and opening times can be found here.
See you soon!