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timbo10ca

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I have always been a huge fan of images (usually abstract) made in such a way where there are either large areas of black with fine lines of white and the opposite- large areas of white with nice deep black "lowlights". The really successful ones stil have nice bits of midtones in them. These seem to usually be images of subjects that are generally very low contrast- if you were to meter them, you'd get a spread of maybe a stop. e.g. a pile of stones, light reflecting on cracked ice or wet mud, peeling paint, burned wood, pretty much all of Brett Weston's Abstract Portfolios 1 and 2.....

I have been struggling with trying to replicate this look but am not having great success. I'm not after a lith look, where all you have is black and white, with nothing in between. I think of the glow of Ansel's "Ferns" shot made in Hawaii Volcanoes Natl Park (in the "400 Photographs" book) and am amazed at how he can make a low contrast scene, and physically dark ferns glow with light. Obviously Ansel's and Brett's mastery over both exposure and development are a huge part of their success, but there must be a starting point because I see many samples of this kind of photo "out there". I'm just not sure how to meter/expose to keep the deep blacks yet getting some highs to work with, or how to develop to get some highs, but not bump my blacks way up. I've found that super long dev times just seem to increase fog across the tonal range, and bring up density in highs and lows equally (after a certain point). Is the answer in simply printing with a grade 5 paper? I see these images online too- so it can't just be the paper....

Some examples of this look I'm after can be found at Dead Link Removed

or
Dead Link Removed


I'm sure you get the idea....

I'm not after a magic recipe, just an approach that people use- it seems to be a pretty common type of image. I know these types of images can be made with any film or developer. Or digital cameras.... I'm after what kind of lighting I should be searching for in nature or making myself. And what tones I should be exposing for and what kind of + development. Is high grade paper also helpful?

Thanks,
Tim
 

jeroldharter

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A couple of things come to mind:

  • purposeful over development, or expansion, to boost the highlight values disproportionately relative to the shadows.
  • local bleaching with dilute potassium ferricyanide (i.e. cheating!). Sometimes you can print intentionally dark anticipating the bleaching back of lighter tones.
 

ic-racer

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Lith printing will get you there, but thats not the only route.
 

Mike Wilde

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I second what Jerold said. Life is a lot simpler in these situations when you shoot sheet film. Individual sheets can be tagged to get individual development extension adjustments to help to expand low contrast scenes. And, as others call it, liquid sunshine aka K Ferri with a bits of cotton to dab it on and lots of running water to rinse it off can help to work miracles.
 
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