Italy – It was a February morning some years ago. Very cold but with a bright and clear sky. I knew the point I was heading for, having travelled there previously many times before in the hope of capturing that “fleeting moment”; one of those times that nature gives very sparingly and only seems willing to share with those who have been willing to wake before dawn.
Each time I had visited this place before I was turned away disappointed because the weather conditions were never like those I had pictured in my mind. Specifically, the moon was never in the position I had hoped for; that perfect location.
That February morning however, I realized immediately that the light and possibilities for composition were excellent. The moon was hung in the perfect position in the sky. To the point that if I could have placed it by my own hand, I would have put it exactly there!
I already had the lens I wanted mounted to my camera but exposure however, was a rather more complex matter, critical, in fact. Bright reflections from the snow aside, the moon’s constant movement across the sky meant I had to use a higher shutter speed in order to “freeze” it’s motion.
Not wanting to love the perfection of the scene, I read the measurement from my spot meter several times and I shot some frames at f/32, varying the shutter speed slightly from 1/30 to 1/8 of a second. All this on ISO 100 film.
Returning to my darkroom I was, as always, torn as to which development to give the film. In the end I opted for a normal development.
The 1/30 second negative was better exposed because the moon was sharper, although the shades I had hoped for were not quite sharp and bright. All my attempts to draw a satisfactory release from the negative were useless…
I sensed a great potential in this negative but I could not fully express it – I felt whipped. Thus the film remained well preserved in its parchment sleeve, kept in a drawer for longer than it deserved. I could not stop thinking about how I might extract the beauty of the image captured in that negative.
About a year ago began to develop my technical understanding of selenium toning. Naturally, I started with less important negatives and it was only when I felt confident enough that I could achieve the results I wanted, that I submitted my precious negative of that February day to the process.
The treatment I used allowed me to increase the contrast in the image and provided a clear improvement of the high values – mainly on the moon. To further increase the contrast a little, at the time of press, I leave the image immersed in selenium toner for a few seconds longer, thus intensify them even slightly low-pitched tones of the sky.
Of course, to obtain the desired print, a certain amount of masking and burn interventions are also needed.
At the time of writing, the best print I’ve made was completed on Gallery 1K 3 paper but it is important to state that the variables surrounding my interventions and the materials I use are constantly changing.
As I hope you can understand, the genesis of this photograph was very difficult and laborious, but the end result (as it is today!), fils me with satisfaction!
Hope you like it…
Share your knowledge, story or project
The transfer of knowledge across the film photography community is the heart of EMULSIVE. You can add your support by contributing your thoughts, work, experiences and ideas to inspire the hundreds of thousands of people who read these pages each month. Check out the submission guide here.
If you like what you're reading you can also help this passion project by heading over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page and contributing as little as a dollar a month. There's also print and apparel over at Society 6, currently showcasing over two dozen t-shirt designs and over a dozen unique photographs available for purchase.