The Eye of the Beholder


Did you ever take a picture which was a failure by any objective standard but which showed you something important? The above is one such picture for me.

This picture, shot last week on Ilford FP4 Plus, developed in Rodinal, scanned with a digital camera and processed with Affinity Photo, suffers from at least two significant technical flaws.

I am still investigating the cause of the light leak. The flare you see here is repeated at regular intervals along the beginning half of the 12-exposure roll. The most likely explanation is that I didn’t fully close the Leica cassette before I took it out of the bulk loader.

The other issue is that the negative was badly underexposed with little or no detail in the shadows. (It looks like a typical chalk and soot Tri-X shot from the 70’s.) The most likely explanation is that I failed to set the fast shutter speed dial on the Leica IIIf to 1/25 before I set the slow shutter speed dial to whatever slower speed I actually wanted. I’ve done that before. 

So why am I so happy with such a failed picture? It’s simple. Looking at the inkjet print, not the little digital image here, the grays (where there are grays), the blacks, the representation of the grain and the sharpness are superb, the best I have ever seen in my hybrid prints. 

All along I have been exposing, developing, scanning and processing FP4 Plus as a finer grain version of HP5 Plus, and I have been happy with the results. Now I have seen that it can be something very special. 

I have a lot of work ahead of me to learn how to capitalize on this discovery. I’ll start with a series of underexposures all developed with my standard 12 minutes in Rodinal (1+50) at 68º F. Based on the results I’ll see where I want to go next. The two constants I won’t change are the film and the developer. 

This could be the end of MF for me.

2 thoughts on “The Eye of the Beholder”

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