Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Note to self: "Self, never print this negative again."

I’m not very keen on juried shows.  Most of them seem to me to be cash cows for the sponsoring gallery or organization.  However, I do occasionally submit prints to shows at LightBox Gallery in Astoria, Oregon.  It is a very nice gallery and rental darkroom/studio and their shows are plenty good enough that I am pleased when I get a print in one of them.  I submitted this print and four others to their upcoming “Photographic Nude” show.  This one was accepted and that will be the third time I have had a print in one of their shows.

I took this photograph at the Fremont solstice parade a few years back.  It is one of my favorites from the solstice parade and I had printed it three times – each time getting a print that was more successful but still not quite what I wanted.  After looking back at the existing prints, I decided to give it one more try before putting a print in a frame for LightBox.

Why, you may well ask, did I need to print it again?  It is what could be understatedly called a ‘difficult’ negative.   It was taken on a very sunny day but I was standing on the shadowed side of the street and the shadow extended a few feet into the street in front of me.  My manual exposure camera was set to photograph the parade as it went down the brightly lit street.  

The girl in this photograph, one of the naked bicyclist posse, was tearing down the parade route close to the curb – in the shadow – where I was standing.  I saw her coming just in time to focus close and tag the shutter button.  She was very close to me – this photograph was taken with a 50mm lens so she was very close. Result: a seriously backlit negative.  The negative image of her body is very thin and the street behind her is very dense.  Problem: how to lift her out of the background without leaving the busy background washed out – and how to make her image contrasty enough to obviously be the most interesting item in the print.

So I said to myself: “Self, you are a better printer now than you were a few years ago.  Have another pop at it.”  And I am.  And I did; with two filters, three exposures and a windmill of dodging and burning.  And I did make a better print than the previous versions; a print that I am pleased to send off to a show where there will be a lot of fine prints.

And I’m done.  The next time I feel the urge to make a better print from this negative I’m going to go drink a cup of tea and wait for the urge to go away.  Or maybe scan the negative and beat on it with Photoshop.


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