I printed this photograph almost a year ago, and it is prime example of how “bad” negative can turn to a decent print. I guess I should rather say “technically bad” negative, because if content is bad there is not much we can do about it during the printing process. In this particular case I am quite happy with the content, but everything else went terribly wrong from picture taking to development.
First of all I did not measure the exposure properly, and later on to make it even worse I did not develop it correctly neither. So I ended up with totally flat negative, as you can see below. I was so frustrated that I wanted to through it straight to bin.
When I took this photo in Northern Iceland in March 2013, I was really excited about it. One day after heavy snow storm, we were driving around Lake Myvatn without any particular target. I suddenly saw these Ice structures at the edge of lake, with sun modestly shining through clouds and mist. We stopped the car and I ran with my Mamiya RB 67 back to this place. I knew I have to be quick, since the conditions were changing very quickly and I did not want the sun to shine too strongly through clouds. I had quick look into viewfinder, focused the camera, measured the exposure and took the shot. Because I was in such harry, I did not think more carefully about final exposure and unfortunately did not bracket it either. To be honest I am not frequently shooting pictures against sun, and I did not want to miss this photo. I hope next time I will do better:)
After some time, when my emotions calmed down I decided to get back to this negative, I scanned it and upload it into Lightroom. It was clear that I will have to do a lot of local contrast adjustments, after some time and couple of tries and errors I become bit more optimistic about it. I finalized the fine contrast adjustment in Photoshop, and I finely had result, which was very close to what I was hoping for when I took this picture.
With some optimism I went to darkroom, it took me more than a month (six to seven sessions) to come to final silver print. However, it was great learning experience, since I had to try a lot of new things. At the beginning I had to create little mask for the ice structure in the foreground, that I have to experiment with burning in very small areas, experimenting with different contrast settings for different parts of the photograph and finely I had to learn how to flesh the small area around sun to get some detail there.
You can see all steps with my notes on the print log bellow. It was not easy way, but I did learn a lot, and it showed me the huge possibilities of traditional darkroom printing. Jugging on people’s reactions during the Exhibition in La Ravoire early this year and recently in La Julienne gallery here in Geneva, this photograph was worthy of a bit of hassle.