I took the Hasselblad with me to the Isle of Skye recently and this weekend I developed the black & white film before retiring to the darkroom to print a couple of frames.
It’s been three weeks since I printed owing to the trip away and other domestic duties and I was keen to get in the darkroom to try the Fotospeed RCVC Oyster paper I bought recently. It proved to be an excellent choice of paper and I was very pleased with the outcome.
My favourite from the first roll out of the Hasselblad was taken on the road to Elgol showing a small group of birch trees on a limestone outcrop. There was a lingering mist and scudding clouds so it was not ideal weather nor light but I was keen to capture the atmosphere and the roll of FP4+ made the Hasselblad the perfect tool for the job.
The paper is a variable contrast paper, something I never used back in the 1970s, and my initial test print was printed on an equivalent grade of 2½ which rendered the cloud and mist very nicely. After producing the envisaged print (above) I then experimented with a harder grade which made a dramatic difference to the foreground and even accentuated a narrow band of light falling at the foot of a distant mountain.
There’s been a lot written recently about the demise of printing and the irony that in a world that produces more images a day than in whole decades past we have less printed artefacts for future generations. It’s one of the reasons I print family photographs. In a world where memories are evoked by a computer-generated prompt on Facebook saying “remember this from 1 year ago?” I sometimes like to think back even further and my suitcase full of family snaps does just that.
Recently I was talking to someone about my early days in the darkroom and recalling how I used to attend “gigs” and take photographs and then rushed home with the roll of Tri-X (sometimes two if feeling flush) to develop the film, hurriedly dry it and produce some basic black and white prints to sell at school the next day to raise funds for the next roll of film. It’s a shame that entrepreneurial spirit didn’t stay with me but that’s another story.
Spooky therefore to find what is probably the only remaining sleeve of negatives from those heady days when clearing room recently to install a darkroom. They are badly underexposed but the negatives themselves are in good condition, testament to my developing skills back in the day I hope. The film stock is Kodak Tri-X and from memory it is likely to have been rated at 800 ISO or even higher so it is not surprising that it is a little grainy. The camera would have been a Zenith E with a 50mm f1.8 lens, not the sharpest combination in the world and as I’d have been using the lens wide open a little softness can be expected – even on those not affected by camera shake!
I printed one of the negatives last night and it provoked a pleasant trip down memory lane for both myself and my wife (then my girlfriend) who claims that it was my idea of a birthday present for her in those days. A charge I refute absolutely of course.