Another stop on Day One was The Burren. I had a difficult time understanding the name until Conn told us that it simply meant – Great Rock. 250 square kilometers of granite in County Clare which took time for me grasp how unusual this was for Ireland. Seeing large expanses of rock – white, red or otherwise – is hardly a rare occurrence in the Southwest USA, but in Ireland this area is indeed unusual.
If my job as a photographer is to report not just what it looks like, but what it feels like, then let me start at the beginning. Spring, Western Ireland, County Mayo, the sheep had given birth just a short time before we arrived and the weather was predictably chilly, damp, and variable. It might be bright blue skies at 7am only to turn to heavy clouds and rain an hour later.
On our first day we traveled from Ennis, a small town just north of the Shannon Airport, to our home-away-from-home in County Mayo, just outside of Westport. I was traveling with three other photographers from southern California and our guide the venerable Cormak (Connie, or just Conn) Cullen. Connie would tell us, in his lilting Irish brogue, to just ask to stop if we saw a scene we wanted to stop and photograph. It was all new to us. It was all green to us.
On the side of the road we saw our first, of many, ruin sites. An abandoned stone house, now used as open grazing land for the sheep and cattle. This is the beginning of how Western Ireland felt.
Horizon Perfekt (swinglens) camera, TMAX 400
A few days ago I had a total disaster with a roll of TMAX 400 B&W film and Xtol 1:1. The result was bright surge marks on every frame. After reading many opinions that ranged from over agitation to under agitation, I decided that I couldn’t isolate one specific thing that I was doing wrong, but that I needed to really start from the beginning.
This post summarizes what I learned using TMAX 400 and Xtol 1:1. These lessons may ONLY apply if you are using plastic tanks and reels and normal (not stand) development. They may be totally wrong if you are using stainless steel tanks and reels or stand development.
These experiments were done with Xtol 1+1and TMAX 400 film, 35mm, 9.25 minutes @ 68-degrees. 1 minute pre-soak, 1 minute water-stop, Photographers Formulary TF4 fixer.
Lesson 1: Paterson tanks and reels are the ones you should be using. Let me say this again – PATERSON TANKS and PATERSON REELS!
The tanks I’ve seen are all designed to pour out the sides and refill down the center through a funnel shape. I now understand this approach – pour out fast, refill gently and from the bottom up. Paterson tanks takes this approach one step further with a deep top well, allowing about 1/4 to 1/3 of your chems to come into the top of tank (above the funnel) to be remixed from the bottom up. Even if you are using the tank to its capacity, there is plenty of room for the chems to fully mix during agitation.
Comparing Paterson reels against cheap reels, you will see that the plastic is thinner with more space between the spirals. Therefore the chems rush in-between the spirals with less force.
Lesson 2. Forget all those super gentle crazy-8 slow inversion techniques – just invert 180-degrees, then back to upright (don’t forget to tap to dislodge any bubbles)
The super gentle crazy-8 and parabolic patterns will not mix your chemicals sufficiently and may even defeat the design of the Paterson tank. You want the take full advantage of the Paterson tank design which allows chems to flow into the top of the tank around all sides and then fill back down the center of the funnel. The only way to effectively do this is to do a quick invert to up-side-down – letting the chems flow into the top of the tank from all sides, then a quick revert back to upright. If you take off the cap, you will notice your chems in the funnel and that it may take a few seconds for the chems to flow back through the funnel. You may want to wait a couple seconds before starting the next inversion. I rotated the tank 45-degrees to start the next inversion.
Lesson 3. Initial agitation 5-7 times in 20-30 seconds followed by 2 inversions each 30 seconds
I can’t say that 1 minute initial agitations followed by an agitation every minute would be better or worse. I can just say that the negs I got were great with this approach.
The thing about downtown LA is the diversity of old and new, opulent and poor. I ran into this guy fixing a new, to him, 1967 Dodge truck parked at the curb on 5th street near Los Angeles street. I was just walking along and I heard loud banging noises which were the result of him working on fixing the door so that it would open all the way. He was so proud of his new truck. I wonder where he will park it.
I’ve been shooting film for a little over a year now and it has proven a great medium for me to explore areas of photography outside my usual street shooting. This past fall, while visiting Portugal, I used a Rolleicord V twin lens reflex to explore the architecture of the Queluz National Palace in Portugal.
I must say, these images were very difficult to setup with a twin lens reflex camera and its waist level view finder, a large format view camera and step stool may have been easier. But with a little time, so soften the memory of their difficulty, I’m pleased with the result. Seeing these result, and the fact that I have done a lot of street shooting already this year, have motivate me to get out more with medium format and large format. It is raining again tonight and promises to be a beautiful spring in Southern California filled with wild flowers. In the meanwhile, enjoy these few views of the Queluz National Palace.
Taken with a Rolleicord V 3.5 TLR, Ilford FP4+, developed in Clayton F76+ for 8 minutes @ 68-degrees. With these large medium format negatives, I’ve taken the liberty of cropping a two to 4×5, the other maintain their 6×6 square format. Click on the image to see it large and marvel in the detail.