Week 2: Swing and a miss [Disco Foxtrot]

I’m heartened (not “pleased”) to see that I’m not the only one having problems getting their processes nailed down at the start of this project.

This week I photographed a 300-year-old wine crane on the banks of the Rhine in the Rheingau. The light was flat because of the overcast skies and I was struggling to capture some of the texture on the wooden crane as well as the detail in the clouds. 

The first three frames on this contact are film developing time tests. I’ve been using HC-110 for the last year on 35 mm Tri-X, but from this test I can measure that my standard developing time  needs to be longer for 120. As a result, all of the frames are underdeveloped with low contrast. 

 Actually, I’ve never been happy with my Tri-X speed in HC-110, so I’m planning on trying XTOL now to see if I can get something closer to box speed. (My personal film speed in 35mm is consistently more than a stop slower than box speed with HC-110 Dilution B.)

I’ve also run into another issue with my enlarger. In addition to the clips holding the condenser in place being visible in my medium-format frame, it turns out the holder can only hold the first or last frame on a sheet because the film goes “into” the enlarger, not sideways. So if I want enlarge frame two or three on a strip of four, I need to cut the film into smaller strips. Not ideal. It’s capable of medium format, but not really designed for medium format. 

Technical issues aside, the images are not compelling anyhow. (Normally I wouldn’t have shared anything from this roll, but in the interest of sharing and monitoring my progress…) 

 The images are flat and the compositions are not particularly interesting. From where I could stand, it was difficult to get one of the Rhine barges into the image to give it any dynamicism. It’s a landscape shot without much of a landscape, either in the water or in the sky. As a result, I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to make a good print of a dull image. 

Lessons learned:

  • Get processes under control as soon as possible (film and developer first, printing)
  • Look for something in a landscape to make it more dynamic, whether the composition (something in the foreground) or the subject (something that interacts or contrasts with the main subject

All that said, I’m glad that the responsibility of posting something every week a) forced me to go out and take a chance on getting something, even under less ideal circumstances, and b) writing about it forced me to put more thought into why the images failed and what I could try differently, instead of just junking the negatives and not learning. I’m not discouraged, just need to get into my rhythm with this toolset. 

4 thoughts on “Week 2: Swing and a miss [Disco Foxtrot]

  1. I’ve got the feeling that the HC110 is not to blame here. For me it looks like an exposure decision dilemma. You want detail in the highlights and detail in the shadows. So suppose you have to measure for the foreground (looks like N+1 or N+2) and use an orange filter for the backlight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally agree, the bad exposure isn’t HC-110’s fault. The problem is that I’ve been unable to dial in the film speed and developing time for HC-110 in my hands over the last few months. I consistently get more than a stop less than box speed for my FB+F, and my Zone VIII densities are all over the place. I’m wondering if HC-110 is particular sensitive to temperature, or if my syringe volumes are inconsistent. If I have the same issues with XTOL I’ll know it’s definitely not the developer choice…


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