Thursday, May 22, 2008


About six months ago I found a process for handing images with incredible dynamic ranges. In traditional silver processing, this is sometimes considered a Holy Grail - to be able to retrain sufficient detail in the shadows while at the same time retaining details in the highlights. So many approaches have, well, developed over time. One approach I ended up with was using Rodinal 150:1 to 200:1 and implementing "semi-stand" 5 inversions every 10 minutes agitation. The approach worked very well. I could clearly see a beneficial effect. However, the local contrast was still not as high as I wanted.

Brooklyn Roundhouse - in Sepia

Once my transition to digital was well under way, I found a series of open source tools that might fulfill my needs. I started testing the tools on my favorite subject, steamlocomotives. Here was the most difficult subject I could find. I have shot hundreds of sheets of large format film in an attempt to capture the spirit and light of the roundhouse that the engines live in. Here in this building were incredibly deep shadows and very very bright sun bathed highlights. It's difficult to convey just how many hours I spent trying to figure out the best film/processing/printing combinations.

Brooklyn Roundhouse - in Sepia

Shockingly, it took me all of fifteen minutes working with my newfound open source digital tools to stumble upon the exact image style that I had spent the previous decade searching for. Here, finally, was a set of tools that I could use to creatively express what my eyes saw and my heart felt.

Steamlocomotives - SPS700, SP4449

I have since spent time working out alternative approaches to achieving similar results. I have found that I'm in love with the way these tools allow me to "draw" the kinds of images you see here. To me, these are wonderful expressions of light and space.

Brooklyn Roundhouse - in Sepia