For this, I blame EM.
First, I got some ILFORD SFX 200 film for the long exposure articles I was working on. Once the tests were done, I was left with 2 rolls sitting around. Then, this wonderful review of the Mamiya 645S 1000S by Tim Dobbs came out and a few short days later, I was the proud owner of a minimalist but capable Mamiya 645, the third Mamiya body in my camera closet. Thanks, EM.
Then, I thought, it has been a while since I visited one of my favourite spots – a small flood management cascade in Etobicoke Creek. This tiny water feature-rich in patterns is a place with a certain magnetism that keeps me coming back to take more photos.
Then, I started wondering about what asinine thing could I do with those two rolls of SFX 200 looking for a purpose. I decided to try out the Mamiya 645 and took off for Etobicoke Creek on a mild October morning with a crappy overcast light. Oh great, I thought. I shrugged and set out to see if 4s and 2s exposures are really as engraved on Mamiya’s shutter speed knob.
I exposed the two rolls, was not too pleased with how the scene looked and headed home. After a coffee, I mixed up some 1+1 dilution of trusty old ILFORD ID-11 and processed the film. I fed it to Epson V600 a few days later and filed the negatives away in disgust of how flat and muddy and uninspiring the scans looked. I figured, this is a part of the creative process, failing, experimenting, all that. I moved on.
Months progressed, and the temperature dropped. Sometime during that deep freeze, feeding off EMULSIVE Santa’s festive spirit, I casually committed to writing a “5 Frames…” SFX 200 article. Life took over and, like with so many hobby commitments, this one faded into the rearview. In early February, I took up contact sheet printing and one of the trial & error sheets were the two rolls of SFX 200. Contact sheets offered a bit of a different perspective on these images. Or, perhaps, just provided a tactile reminder much stronger than twice-backed-up files on a disc.
Looking at contact sheets, I remembered that commitment I made around Christmas: 5 Frames with SFX 200. The images looked so unsatisfactory as scans, yet the contact sheet told a different story. I decided to mark up five frames on the contact sheet, print them on 5×7 and see what they looked like. And so it was that I found myself staring at these 5 prints drying on a line in my basement, mesmerized with an outer-worldly rendering of these same negatives on ILFORD Multigrade RC IV+ Pearl paper.
I took to Twitter, posted a photo and decided to finally follow through on my commitment in the form of the article you’re reading. It got me thinking about getting some more SFX 200 and doing more photographs like this, this time on purpose.
And for that, specifically, I blame EM.
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This series is being produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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