This post is one in a series called ‘behind the scenes’. The series describe how I visualise images and then the difficulties of putting these visualisations into effect as pictures.

Last year, just before the first COVID lock-down in England, I went walking in Sussex with my daughter. One of the towns we visited was Rye in East Sussex. I was curious how it might have changed since my last visit some 45 years ago.

I had with me one of my favourite walk-about combinations: Mamiya-Six Automat folder with Ilford XP2 in 120 format. Given the ‘chocolate boxy’ vistas in some parts of the town, I wanted to find a scene that would work in Bromoil.

What I liked about this scene (below) was the absence of street markings and parked cars. I positioned myself so that the street lamp was isolated from the wall and metered the shadow area at the base of the wall for zone 3. The light meter was set for a speed of 200, half of XP2’s box speed.

Here is a straight scan from negative. The film was 120 Ilford XP2, so scanning was very easy.

Rye, East Sussex. Ilford XP2 rated at 200.

The film did remarkably well keeping the sky highlights from being blown out. Every time I use XP2 I wonder why it’s not my normal film of choice. I think the problem is that I don’t always want to get my Jobo C41 processor out. The set up time is quite long and is only justified if you are developing 4 film rolls together.

The only problem with the picture as it stands is that it is not sharp from front to back. I did not have a tripod and I could not stop down any further than f8 without risking camera shake. And pushing XP2 is not realy an option. In a way, though, this did not matter too much as the picture was destined for a Bromoil treatment.

The first couple of Bromoil attempts completely failed. I used Finesse grade 2 paper exposed at n+1/3, as I usually do with this paper. But for some reason the second soak of the paper, before the second inking, left the paper with what I can only describe as internal tide marks in the paper. I knew from past experience that remedial work was unlikely to succeed, and so it proved. I have not been able to work out why this issue occurs on some attempts but not on others, as my process is standardized.

So, I switched papers to Kentmere ‘Bromoil’ paper, long discontinued. This was my first outing with this paper. It inked well after a soak 10 minute at 25 C – indeed perhaps a little too well as I slightly overdid the first inking. The paper has a pronounced ‘tooth’ and accepts ink very easily in the tanned (shadow) areas. I also discovered that highlights were tricky to clear. The best way seemed to be using a clean foam roller under warm water.

Anyway, here is the result as it stands:

Rye, East Sussex, England. Bromoil

Not too shabby. If I was to redo it, I would spend more time doing soak/temperature tests see whether I could open the highlights a little more.

The question is, do I now stain it in tea then oil it in Lavender? I think I should as the paper is a very matt one.

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