by Dave Brown
A Little Bit Of Work
I ride my mountain bike on a single track around this mesa near my home. There is a particular saddle on the mesa with a terraced cliff six to seven hundred feet above where I normally ride. On this cliff I noticed a building, too far away to discern it’s construction. Yesterday my son and I hiked into the location of this building from the other side of the mesa. It wasn’t that arduous a walk but it was cold, about 5 F. As we neared the structure I was immediately impressed with the feeling of foreboding that the stone building brought to me. It was like a transport through time and space had occurred and dropped us onto a Kyrgyzstan plain. Everything, became colder and darker.
I set up my medium format camera with a black and white back on it, Ilford Pan F 50, not my favorite film for architecture, but I have a lot of it in my freezer so use it I must. The “Stone House” sits on the edge of a cliff that drops down on to a brushy hillside. It has a 180 degree view of the beginning of the Great Plains of North America and Metro Denver. I did not care about the view of the plain, I set up my widest angle lens for the Bronica, a 40mm which equates to about 22mm in 35mm film speak, as close to the structure and as low on the tripod as I could to enable framing the entire structure “corner on”. From this POV the stone work takes control of your imagination, the transport begins!
After performing all of the grunt work with MF (medium format), I put my G10 on the tripod in the exact location and aspect, set it to ISO 80, Aperture mode F:8 (the max set point on the G10), 3 shot Auto Bracket then fired away. Matt and I then packed up the gear to begin our climb back off the narrow ledge that the Stone House is perched upon, climbing back from the 12th to the 21st century as we ascended the 3 billion year old basalt cliff face above Stone House.
Thawing out Cameras and Fingers
My fingers are slowly morphing from stone to wood to flesh as they thaw out at my keyboard back at home. There I brought one set of three shots, EV -2/ EV 1 /EV +2, up in Photomatix using a BW preset that I use for film as well as digital images. I did some dancing with the micro-smoothing slider, and mid-tone contrast getting close to what I thought would be a good BW image. The Stone House was looking ominous just as it felt to be standing near it, only more so. Then I did something that I have never done before, in this manner any way I added some saturation to the yellow end of the color slider in Photomatix. I utilize duo-toning frequently in my images as a means to texture boost, and that is what gives the hint of detail in the foreground grasses and the door. Which was a mustard color that you can see in the color version that I have included. From this point on I am laying low out of the wind that buffets the North Asian plain. The transport is now fact.
A Tale of Two Images
Below is the color version of this HDR. You can see the depth in the sky, but there is also an area where the highlights to the far right of the sky are blown out. I could not recover that area with out wanking the dark detail that I wanted to keep. If I spent another hour painting in some dodging, and reducing the intensity slider I could likely make a recovery. I will probably go back and try to make a go at that, but dot dot dot I REALLY love the feel of the Duo-tone image. It takes me to the Steppe just sitting here in my chair, my coffee gets colder, I shiver, somewhat for cold, somewhat in apprehension.
So from the beginning my intention from the time I put on my snow pants until I poured my coffee back home was to make a black and white image. I set up the MF camera 1st, performed all of the metering looked at EV numbers via Luna Pro, recited the Sunny 16 mantra, yet, I publish a digital BW HDR. I haven't souped the film from yesterday yet so I have no idea what latent images in remain in that film back. After viewing the digital version, I am not sure of what to expect. It likely will not be as hard edged as the work that is seen here. Once I get it scanned if it is worthy I will add it to this post.