Frosted Willow Tree
Dave, a good friend of mine had just installed a large format enlarger in his darkroom and was eager to make a few 4 x 5 negatives for printing using his new equipment. He called early in the morning asking if I would be interested in getting out to make some “test negatives” to print.
I looked outside and it was a typical gloomy overcast March day in Michigan.
At first thought outdoor photography did not seem very exciting. But then again, this was for a friend that wanted to make test negatives. I grabbed my loaded back-back, put it in the car and was off.
Belle Isle is a 982 acre island in the Detroit River that separates Windsor and Detroit. It is home to the Detroit Yacht Club, the Detroit Boat Club, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. A highlight of Belle Isle is the combination of the America’s oldest public aquarium and a beautiful botanical garden in the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory built in 1904, the nation’s oldest conservatory. The conservatory was built by Detroit architect Albert Kahn and the island was landscaped in the 1880s by the prominent designer Frederick Law Olmsted. The question was – could we find something, anything, to photograph here?
Since I have taught many workshops here over the years familiarity with the area was not going to be a problem. We began making detail photographs at the Scott Fountain. Then to the Conservatory. More details. The overcast day made exposures very easy. Development of the negatives would require care to acquire and maintain detail in the white snow areas. After an hour or two, more photographs began to present themselves. My back-pack included 5 – 5 x 7 film backs each loaded with two sheets of Tri-X film. Ten sheets total. I had already used 6 sheets and was wishing I brought more. The snow and frost on the trees and plants made interesting studies. The architecture of the conservatory was a challenge with a white sky. I made a mental note of some compositions and felt a need to return under different weather conditions.
We drove to the North end of the Island parked our car and began walking around just enjoying the beauty of this place. Finding a series of willow trees with a thin layer of frost on the branches made another interesting subject. Gently walking around the subject viewing the tree with my viewing card made seeing the subject easy and when I saw the two trees in the background I knew my composition would include all three trees.
I selected my 305 mm Schneider to fill the frame. I used my spot meter to determine exposure and discovered something interesting. I looked for the largest area of the tree bark to meter for my shadows. The base of the tree was easy to meter and I did not need to meter through the white frosted braches which would give me an incorrect reading for shadow detail. It measured an EV of 12 ½. As usual I will double check the meter reading and this time I measured the light reflecting off the tree trunks ½ way up the tree. I found the light value was a full stop lower. An EV of 11 ½. Again I measured the bottom of the tree for another check. The meter was correct all three times. I realized that the bottom of the tree was twice as bright (one full stop). This I finally deduced was because the base of the tree was receiving a greater intensity of reflected light from the snow on the ground. So for the correct reading I based my exposure on the darker branch near the center of the tree.
Exposure was f-64 ½ at ½ second. I measured the white snow to determine my development time. It was an EV 16 ½. A five stop range indicating a normal development time.
It didn’t take my friend Dave long at all to get his negatives developed and printed. He was very pleased with the improvement in print quality over the 2 ¼” medium format negatives he had been using.
About the Print of the Month
The Print of the Month is a new print offered at an early-edition discount. Normal pricing must apply once the print is offered by a gallery.
The Print of the Month is a silver gelatin print, each one created by hand using traditional darkroom methods.
Prints are limited to 50 per edition.
Typically the Print of the Month is made from a T-Max 100 negative, which is processed in D-76 mixed 1:1.
Each fine art print is made by hand using Ilford-based double weight paper.
The prints are double fixed and selenium toned for longevity. They are then washed in a vertical print washer to completely eliminate any residue. Prints are carefully allowed to dry for two days. Next, each print is mounted on museum quality archival mat boards with acid-free mounting tissue. Although each print takes a considerable amount of time and meticulous effort, this archival printing and mounting process is the only way to ensure print permanence and collectability. Give it proper care and your print will last hundreds of years without fading.
My signature and the print number are visible on the mat, below the print.
The Print of the Month offers a 50% savings off the normal investment.