The film photography & darkroom work of David Kirby

Skippool Creek

This is a phenomenon known as bad weather:

And, as always, bad weather comes whenever I have plans to go out and shoot some film.

I was off work yesterday.  I had half a day to take before the end of the year as I can't carry it over to next year; and, my boss had given me half a day to take in lieu of some overtime I had recently worked.  So I spent the majority of last weekend wandered around feeling all smug because I had Monday off and that's one more day than everyone else!   The plan was to have a little morning snoozy before heading out to a new location I had discovered via that most helpful of tools, the internet.  Following this I could head home, develop my film, watch some TV while my negatives dried then get to some printing.  Naturally this didn't happen.  The sound of heavy rain as I awoke in the morning forced me to roll over and take advantage of the extra bed space available to me in Jess' absence.  Clearly this was the right choice as Ellie, who would normally be pawing at my face to take her for a walk, decided to snooze at the foot of the bed pretty much all morning.  The universe was obviously giving me a sign that a sleep in would restore balance to the world so who was I to disobey?!

After a toilet break forced me to arise many hours later I enrobed and headed downstairs, noting that my morning snooze had somehow taken it upon itself to extend into the afternoon.  Jess was due home from work in half an hour so I set about making it look like I had been up for ages and working hard.  A few tools and some washing littered discreetly about the house did the trick nicely and I gave myself an internal pat on the back as Jess walked in and began to talk about her day, failing to acknowledge that I was still in my dressing gown.

As Ellie hadn't yet been to the toilet we decided to take her out for a good walk and, despite the weather, decided to head to the location I had found online.  I packed my camera bag and tripod into the car just in case the weather broke and we got a dry spell.  Lo, no sooner had we passed the village boundary when the skies cleared and we were blessed with a panorama of blue!  Clearly the universe was pleased with my actions so far today.  We drove the fifteen minutes to the new location, parked up and unloaded the car.

We set off walking at a leisurely pace, taking in the lovely scenery and enjoying what warmth the winter sun was throwing at us.  Ellie was eager as ever to be freed from her lead so she could run free like her wolf cousins.  We let her off her lead once we left the road and were on a footpath and, naturally, she headed straight for the nearest muddy puddle.  I should mention at this point that the location we were at is called Skippool Creek which is located close to Fleetwood, Lancashire.  It is a smallish inlet of water which runs into the River Wyre and it contains numerous jetties dotted at intervals along its western bank.  Between the jetties are many boats, some relatively new, some old and decaying along with their accompanying jetties.  It was a most pleasant place to walk and Ellie thoroughly enjoyed wading through the knee deep mud close to the shore.  I setup my camera at various places to take some shots; I wasn't there to go wild and shoot roll after roll or seek out every photographic opportunity there was.  I was happy just ambling along and taking a shot every now and then.  To be honest, the main reason I was there was to try out my recent film speed test.  For those of you unfamiliar with film speed testing it is part of the zone system and I will be covering it in a future tutorial.  All I will say for now is that it allows you to determine optimal ISO to shoot your film at and optimal developing time for film rated at that ISO.

Fortunately the golden hour was approaching so I was getting a good 6 zones of tonality in each shot (again - zone system, i'll explain another time).  I finished up my roll of film and we finished up our walk, stopping by the water so that Ellie could have a swim and wash off all the mud (if you look above at the photo of me setting up a shot you can see how dirty Ellie was).  We headed back to the car, loaded up and set off home.

Upon our return I wasted no time in heading to the shed to get my developing gear.  Back inside I realised I had forgotten the jugs for my chemicals so back to the shed I went.  After getting back inside again I realised i had forgotten to grab a negative storage sleeve and field notes sheet (i'm very OCD about keeping records) so back once more to the shed I went.  I mixed up my chemicals and started developing.  Normally I would rate my Ilford FP4+ at 80 ISO and develop for 15 minutes in Rodinal, but, since my film had one zone of tonality extra than was required I did an N-1 development (again - zone system, more later) and developed for 10:30.  After a stop, fix, wash and final rinse I held my breath and opened my tank.  Lovely negatives!  Could it be?1  Was my film test correct?!  Had I used good filtration, metered well, exposed correctly and developed spot on?!  A merry jig around the kitchen and a small chocolatey treat confirmed my suspicions.  I was happy.  Tomorrow I would make a contact sheet of the negatives so I could assess them further.

And tomorrow is now.  I have just made a contact sheet which is currently drying and it looks like there are some good printable frames on there which is fantastic.  One frame in particular looks like it will print very nicely, a 22 second exposure of a y-shaped jetty.  That reminds me, I just downloaded a great app on my phone called Exposure Assistant.  It has a database of many films and will calculate reciprocity failure for you.  If you are unfamiliar with reciprocity failure it is basically something which happens to film the longer your exposures get.  For example your meter may be telling you that a 1 second exposure will do but in actual fact the film may require longer to get adequate exposure.  For the shot I am talking about my meter was saying 8 seconds but accounting for the reciprocity failure of FP4+ my exposure had to be 22 seconds.  It is basically the silver in your film having an exponentially diminishing response to low light levels.  Perhaps I will write a tutorial on it in the future. 

Hopefully I will get some time to have a good printing session at the weekend.  I am keen to work some of these shots and, hopefully, get a good print out of them.  In the meantime I can be happy in the knowledge that my film speed test worked well and I can crack on with planning my trip to Iceland in May.  Feel free to be jealous about that.

Until next time friends, happy printing (and shooting)!