I wanted a few nighttime square images for the final chapter of a book I was just completing on Dublin, a kind of goodnight to the City. The book was published and two years later I’m still prowling Dublin’s streets at night with my beloved Hassie.
It’s now an obsession.
The main concern was always security, shooting in the city with an expensive camera at night. I shot with friends on occasions which is always advisable but not always practical. I work very fast with a Hasselblad, I try to stay in the shadows and use my ears for security, moving on if I sense any risk.
Once I identify a location, my 60mm Zeiss Distagon lens is set to f/8 and the camera is mounted on a tripod with a cable release. I always carry a spare as they do break – even the good ones. They’re also easier to lose at night.
My exposure times range from 30 seconds to two minutes and I bracket maybe two exposures at each location. I use Fuji NEOPAN 100 ACROS rated normally. This is yet another casualty of Fujifilm’s cull, I do however have a large stock to complete this project. Anyway, it’s a great film. No reciprocity failure issues mean it’s good for long exposure nighttime work and it works well when developed in Rodinal.
I was always concerned about controlling contrast. In the beginning, I developed the film in Rodinal at a dilution of 1+50 for 11 minutes. The exposures were fairly good but the contrast was a bit too strong. Still, I persisted with this process for a short while. While I knew I’d get away with scanning them – it’s scans I’m showing here – printing them in the darkroom was going to be very difficult and that was always my intention.
The simple solution to control contrast was a higher dilution. I switched to Rodinal at 1+100 for 18 minutes. I also reduced agitation to one gentle half revolution per minute. The negatives have been consistently good with this formula: easy to scan and a pleasure to print.
It’s only in the last week or two I have started to print them in the darkroom and as you’d expect nighttime images have a lot of black. In short, they looked good on screen but died on paper. Eventually, I had decided to lightly bleach and then Selenium tone the prints. This worked but was messy, as the Selenium turns black and you have problems with staining. Finally, I tried a very light bleach followed by a dark brown sepia tone.
This has worked, turning the white highlights a little creamy, while retaining a nice black/brown tone overall.
My final (well, current) print development process then, is ILFORD Warmtone Fibre 10×8 developed in ILFORD Warmtone developer. This is followed by a light sepia tone using a Fotospeed kit at a dilution of 1+30 for 25 seconds and finally, a full tone at a dilution of 1+9 with 50mm of additive from the same kit.
I hope you like the results as much as I do. Thanks for reading
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