Tag Archives: Paris

Split-Grade Printing, Silver Gelatin

I actually do make silver gelatin prints. I’ve been away from the medium for a while, mostly concentrating on alternative processes. I needed a break from alt process work so I cleaned up my workspace, fired up the enlarger, and started printing my Paris images you might remember from earlier blog posts. With my new (to me) Oriental VC-CLS variable contrast cold light head (a lot of jargon for a light source that allows you to adjust the contrast in your print by changing the ratio of blue and green light exposing the paper), I’ve been having a blast cranking out prints, and the Oriental head makes it a lot easier to do split-grade printing.

For those unfamiliar with the idea, instead of making a single exposure at one contrast grade, and then doing a lot of burning and dodging to make up for it, with split-grade, what you do is make two base exposures, one using a very soft contrast (in my case, most likely grade 0) and a second using a very hard contrast (grade 5). What this does is the soft exposure lets you get your highlights with detail, and the hard brings the shadows in to snap. You still need to burn and dodge for specific things, but you can refine the overall look as the image requires, without getting frustrated at why a certain area always comes out too dark or too bright. You can refine this technique to include your burning and dodging cycles, so that you might burn an area in with the grade 0 filter to put detail back in the highlights but not blocking up the shadows, or with the grade 5 filter for putting deep black in a shadow without muddying up the whites in the same area.

I’ll give an anatomy of a split-grade print here so you can better understand what I’m talking about. This is a real challenge to print “straight” – it’s a high contrast scene, with the dog-walker being somewhat backlit, and the upper left corner a lot brighter than the rest of the scene. This is the finished print here:

Dog Walk, Rue Sevigny, Paris
Dog Walk, Rue Sevigny, Paris

Here is the scan I made from the negative, which also had a fair bit of manipulation. Less successful, wouldn’t you say? The dog walker is still strongly backlit.

Dog Walker, Rue Sevigne, Le Marais
Dog Walker, Rue Sevigne, Le Marais

To make this print, I gave it a base exposure of 20 seconds using the grade 0 filter. I dodged the dog walker for 10 of those. Then I burned in the upper left corner for an additional 20 seconds. I gave a final overall exposure of five seconds at grade 5, to put a little snap in the general scene and specifically to firm up the shadows on the dog walker without losing tonal separation for his buttons, the cords of his iPod earbuds, and the hair of the dog. Were I making this print larger, I’d go back in and burn the sidewalk between his legs and the dog back down a bit, but in a 7×7 inch print, accurately wielding a burning card with a hole that small is tough!

This was printed on Ilford Warmtone variable-contrast fiber paper, using Ilford Warmtone developer. I’m not applying any fancy tricks to the developer like playing around with developer dilution or split warmtone/cooltone developers. That’s a trick for another day.

NYC Subway shot found!

I found the shot I had taken of the NYC subway train oncoming. Again a bit impressionistic, but you can still feel the difference between it and the other city’s subways that I’ve photographed, even though the car isn’t at all visible in the exposure. I THINK this is the N/Q/R platform at 5th avenue and 59th street- it’s been a while since I took the shot.

NYC Subway Oncoming, 59th St
NYC Subway Oncoming, 59th St

Here are a couple more of my subway shots as a comparison. Please pardon the repetition of the recent post:

Gallery Place Metro #2
Gallery Place Metro #2
Oncoming Metro
Oncoming Metro
Toronto Subway
Toronto Subway
Metro Train Arriving, Archives Station
Metro Train Arriving, Archives Station
Speeding Metro
Speeding Metro

All shots taken with my Rolleiflex 2.8E. Film used was either Ilford FP4+ for the b/w shots or either Kodak Portra 160 or Ektar 100 for the color.

Ordinary Objects

This is part of a series I’ve been working on – photographing ordinary objects we pass by on the street every day but take for granted. They are things we see but don’t see, and they may well vanish, like pay phones, mailboxes, and newspaper vending machines, before we realize they’re gone. Pay phones are all but replaced by the cellphone. Newspapers as a physical object may cease to exist thanks to the internet, and along with them the newspaper box. Email has just about killed the personal letter – the only thing keeping the postal services alive these days are mass marketers with their junk mail, Ebay and Amazon with package deliveries. Not everything in the series is vanishing in a literal sense like pay phones, but some of them do vanish from our perception like the fire hydrant, the lamp post, and the traffic cone. We know they’re there because we don’t trip over them when walking on the streets, but they exist at the periphery. They each have their own beauty and form, however, and within their function there are a remarkable variety of forms – the hydrant in Chalon-sur-Saone, while as recognizable as a fire hydrant as the hydrant from Washington DC, has a very different form, as does the Siamese spigot.

Payphones
Payphones
Everyday Objects - Payphone
Everyday Objects – Payphone
Lamppost, Riggs Bank, 14th Street
Lamppost, Riggs Bank, 14th Street
Yellow Postbox, Paris
Yellow Postbox, Paris
Mailbox
Mailbox
Hydrant, Chalon
Hydrant, Chalon
Mueller Hydrant, K Street, DC
Mueller Hydrant, K Street, DC
Siamese Spigot
Siamese Spigot
Traffic Cone
Traffic Cone

Bikeshares – riffing off the Public Transit theme

For rather obvious reasons, most of these are of the bikeshare here in Washington DC. I will be shooting more in other cities where I find them – I’m going to try New York the next time I’m up there, as the CitiBikes are everywhere in Manhattan. I do have token representation from Paris, though. I shot these with a range of cameras, from my Rollei to a loaner Fuji GSW 690 II, to my RB-67. Each has their merits and the different formats I think actually work together to convey the varied moods and perspectives of the bikeshare experience.

Ve'Lib Bikeshare
Ve’Lib Bikeshare
Capital Bikeshare - Konica Infrared
Capital Bikeshare – Konica Infrared
Bike Share Rack, 11th Street
Bike Share Rack, 11th Street
Wet Bike Seat
Wet Bike Seat
BikeShare #2
BikeShare #2
BikeShare #1
BikeShare #1
Capitol Bikeshare, Rhode Island Avenue
Capitol Bikeshare, Rhode Island Avenue
Capitol Bikeshare, 7-Eleven Windows
Capitol Bikeshare, 7-Eleven Windows
Bikeshare Downtown, in the Rain
Bikeshare Downtown, in the Rain
Capital Bikeshare, Snowstorm
Capital Bikeshare, Snowstorm
Bikeshare Kiosk, Washington Monument, NIght
Bikeshare Kiosk, Washington Monument, NIght

Public Transit

I mentioned in my post about Toronto how the different transit systems look and feel, even when capturing them in a similar way. Here are four shots of the Toronto, Paris and Washington DC subways. All four are behaving similarly – long handheld exposures as the trains pull in to the station, yet all four look and feel quite different.

Toronto Subway
Toronto Subway
Speeding Metro
Speeding Metro, Paris
Metro Train Arriving, Archives Station
Metro Train Arriving, Archives Station
Oncoming Metro
Oncoming Metro

Paris in October – part 32 – Notre Dame in Color

Notre Dame looks very different in color than in black-and-white. The stone takes on a different texture, the shapes of the arches and buttresses are somehow different, and I think you feel the age of the place much more. This is, after all, a 900 year old building.

In the garden behind the cathedral, there is an apple tree. The groundskeepers must zealously patrol for fallen fruit, as I never saw one on the ground in a week of passing through. I was talking with someone at work about this apple tree and he observed an irony of having an apple tree in the garden of a cathedral, if you’re into Christian symbolism.

Notre Dame, Apple Tree
Notre Dame, Apple Tree

A closer-in view of the rear of the cathedral, including the spire. The towers top out at 226 feet, but the spire and its weather-vane go on to 300 feet tall. I don’t think you realize that when looking at the building because of the relative mass of the towers, and the perspective you have when viewing either spire or towers – you’re always looking up, and at the distances required to see both, the height differential is erased by perspective. You can clearly see in this photo the stacked wedding-cake structure of the building – the lower floor with its side chapels spreads out much wider than the center aisle.

Notre Dame, Rear
Notre Dame, Rear

A side view of the cathedral, showing both the towers and the spire. Even from this view it’s hard to see an extra 75 feet of height on the spire.

Notre Dame, Side View
Notre Dame, Side View

Another view of the rear, with the apple tree. This one includes people in the garden for perspective.

Notre Dame, Apples
Notre Dame, Apples

Paris in October – part 31 – More Notre Dame in B/W

These are a few more from that last remaining roll of b/w I didn’t develop until yesterday. Just some additional looks at Notre Dame cathedral in black and white.

It’s hard to view the cathedral without trying to interpret the towers as a graphical element. They’re the most recognizable element to the church, perhaps other than the rose window. The main body of the church is actually rather narrow and delicate, relative to its perception. All those flying buttresses make it seem much more massive than it is. The tower facade, though, really establishes that perception because when viewing it straight on, it seems like a solid wall, and that the church behind it must be equally as massive.

Twin Towers, Notre Dame
Twin Towers, Notre Dame

Trying to look at the towers is a vertigo-inducing experience. They are quite tall, and the nature of the decorations make you keep looking up to see all the details to the very last set of gargoyles some 226 feet in the air. Getting up in the towers to view them up close and personal is vertigo-inducing as well – it’s a nearly 400-stair climb to the top of the tower (which I did NOT do – I’m too out-of-shape to attempt something so heart-stressing). At one point in time, Notre Dame was the largest building in the western world – you can still easily spot it from the 2nd tier of the Eiffel Tower, despite the intervening buildings, several miles and the bend in the river between the two landmarks.

Tower, Notre Dame, Looking Up
Tower, Notre Dame, Looking Up

Here is a view of the incredibly detailed facade. One thing I did not realize until looking at this photo is the fact that all three main doorways are different. I always assumed that the left/right halves of the facade would be symmetrical. If you look carefully, the archway over the left hand door is a little smaller, and crowned by the angular, peaked molding. The right arch is larger and lacks the angular molding. Another detail that often gets forgotten – we assume that these cathedrals were all bare stone, and that the way we see them today is how they were intended. Au contraire – most cathedrals of the Romanesque and Gothic periods (the 7th-15th centuries) were brightly painted, inside and out. The statues on the exterior would all have been polychrome, as would the interior walls have been. Time, weather, wear and neglect have conspired to strip the coloring off the buildings. They did find some early medieval frescoes inside the old cathedral in Salamanca that had been covered up for centuries after an earthquake damaged both cathedrals (they’re kind of conjoined twins and share a wall).

Notre Dame Facade, Afternoon
Notre Dame Facade, Afternoon

I really don’t know why they built this mammoth viewing/reviewing stand in the plaza in front of the cathedral. You can ascend the steps on the front face, or you can climb the ramp up the back. This is the view of the towers from the ramp – the tarp-like covers on the ramp provide a starkly modern contrast to the gothic stonework of the cathedral.

Notre Dame Towers, from Ramp
Notre Dame Towers, from Ramp
Towers, Notre Dame Cathedral
Towers, Notre Dame Cathedral

The crowds at Notre Dame are non-stop, even at night after the cathedral is closed. This is a typical weekday afternoon on the plaza out front. The little house to the right is the rectory for the cathedral. Along the fence surrounding the rectory is where you will find the bird feeders – people who will sell you a scrap of day old bread or a stale churro that you can hold up in your outstretched hand to attract the sparrows who will hover over to get a bite.

Crowds, Square, Notre Dame
Crowds, Square, Notre Dame
Feeding Sparrows, Notre Dame
Feeding Sparrows, Notre Dame

Some architectural details of the fence around the rectory:

Capital, Fence Column, Notre Dame
Capital, Fence Column, Notre Dame
Fence Capital, Notre Dame
Fence Capital, Notre Dame

Beside the cathedral there is a park with views of the Seine, replete with benches, gardens and, as part of Haussmann’s renovations, public drinking fountains. I loved the way this looked backlit with the evening light. Consider it another one of my portraits of everyday objects.

Drinking Fountain, Notre Dame
Drinking Fountain, Notre Dame

And last but not least, the tradition that began in Rome of young couples buying a padlock, writing their initials on it, locking it to the railing of a bridge, and tossing the keys in the river as a symbol of how their love cannot be undone has come to Paris. It is so popular that it has infested three or four bridges across the Seine now, and the boquinistes with bookstalls along the Rive Gauche nearest the Ile de la Cité sell a variety of padlocks and permanent markers. It seems only natural that people would do this on the bridges closest to Notre Dame, as it is one of the most romantic, inspiring buildings in a city full of romantic inspiration.

Love Locks, Notre Dame
Love Locks, Notre Dame

(see, I told you you wouldn’t have to wait long for the next Paris post!)