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Gloucester and the Cotswolds, Flashing and Eco Developer

Last weekend Vicki and I went to visit our friends Dave and Cecil in their new home in Stroud. It was an excellent visit and they went out of their way to make it a nice visit. A visit to the local market netted some very nice cheese and some pottery. The Prince Albert pub on Saturday night with the fabulously happy sound of Oshti Baba from Bristol with a band of patchouli scented followers.

We also went for a nice walk on the Cotswold Way and this was a chance to take some photographs. I hauled along my Mamiya C220 which though a beast has never disappointed. It is outfitted with a 65mm f3.5 lens. I also have a deep yellow filter which while great at darkening blue skies it is a little too dark as green forests get very dark.

The snow drops were out and the day was gray with low hanging clouds and much mist about.
Snow Drops f11 #5 22 sec #00 32 sec
The snow drops was an easy print. Test strips at #5 and #00 filters. I then picked the exposure shown above first try.

Next is a print of some trees. Here there are some surprising choices I think partially influence by a  Japanese photographer I have been following on Flickr Yuu Sakai. He has some amazing high key shots. The photos below are not in the same vein but Sakai-san has opened my eye lighter exposures. Consequently my first print I thought at first too light but actually it works for me on one level. It strokes me as very open.

Forest f11 #5 22 sec #00 8 sec
I then went darker on the low contrast (#00) filter by 1/2 stop. A similar result.
Forest f11 #5 22 sec #00 11 sec
My biggest concern was the leaves on the tree in the foreground left. They are well lit and get lost in the background. Difficult to remedy as part of the background is a very light sky. So I tried next to darken the high contrast filter (1/2 stop) hoping that where it had effect it would be enough to differentiate the leaves. The final print achieves this somewhat I think.
Forest f11 #5 32 sec #00 8 sec
Next was a print of some beech trees in front of a rock wall. The picture sets the smooth beech against the rough mossy wall.
Wall f11 #5 16 sec #00 8 11 sec
An unfortunately common problem plagues the upper part of this print. It is very light. Lots of the horizon and background is lost and this is made worse by the short depth of field so these background features lose their edges. Finally some people don't like to leave pure white on the boarder as the definition of the edge is lost.

Some time ago I read an article on The Online Darkroom by guest contributor Omar from Turkey. This article uses the technique of flashing to solve a similar printing problem. I have remembered that and recently have had a few chances to try it. Since it uses a pre-exposure of the whole paper that moves the up the toe of the sensitivity curve it should be done carefully. This makes it a little troublesome.

First a test strip is made. The one shown below was calibrated for 12x16 prints so it must be scaled. Basically a strip of photo paper is marked with indelible ink at even intervals. These marks are useful in using the strip as you will be looking for small gradations in gray and without the marks the different times in the interesting areas will be difficult to tell apart. Normal test strips I don't bother with this as the zones are usually obvious.
Flash Test strip for 12x16 enlargements Ilford MGIV Deluxe #00 filter
Ignore the splotches. (I don't know what happened there.) I ran from 3 seconds at f32 (fully stopped down with no negative in the enlarger) in 1/2 stop intervals covering increasing amounts of the test strip. Since I intend to use the low contrast filter to fill these light areas my test strip is made with the #00 filter in place. Just barely visible is the transition from white to the first hint of tone. This happens above between 8 and 12 seconds. Now this is exposed at a distance used for 12x16 enlargements which is about 2.5 times more area than the 8x10 for these prints. The time must be divided by 2.5 as the same amount of light now covers less area. This yields about 3.2 seconds so 3-4 seconds is probably safe. (4x2.5 is 10 which is still less than the 12 on the test strip which may still be OK.)

So the final print is flashed 3 seconds first. Then the negative is loaded and aligned and the aperture reset to f11. The result follows.
Wall f11 #5 16 sec #00 8 11 sec with 3 sec f32 pre-flash
One can see the effect of the openings between the trees are slightly toned. Also the trees in the background are better formed. To make this more obvious I cropped the upper left corner of each photo to see the effect better,
Crop No flash

Crop with Flash
Finally one other note; I have moved from Universal PQ developer by Ilford to Eco 4812 by Moersch. A recent hiatus in my darkroom work made me realize I needed a developer more suited to this as a hobby. Eco 4812 is reputed to have a very long shelf life even after mixing and storage. It also has amazing capacity and is somewhat cooler in tone than Universal PQ on Ilford MGIV RC paper. I mix at 1+14 as recommended but only develop for 2 minutes vs the recommended 3 minutes. I did some tests and couldn't see a difference. All this and it is ecologically friendly. So far I am very pleased with it.