I really enjoy travelling through the Welsh and English Marches, that thin band of land that straddles the Welsh and English border …

Stokesay is a 700 year old former fortified manor house. It was built in the 13th century by Laurence of Ludlow, who at the time was one of the richest men in England. He controlled most of the wool trade in the west of England.

I have been to Stokesay several times but what caught my eye on this trip was the light on the grave-side crosses in the churchyard. The sun was just catching the crosses whilst the church itself was in part shade. I had Ilford HP5 loaded in my Hasselblad with the 80mm Planar and I metered the shadow areas of the crosses for zone 4.

Below is the first print from a 6×6 cm negative using a contrast filter of 2.

Grade 2 filter straight print – scanned without any adjustments

This did not do justice to what I saw. I decided that this was too flat, so I split grade printed it in a rough and ready way, knowing that there would be opportunities later in the process for tonal tweaks. My rough and ready split grade is to work out an exposure time for grade 0 and to add grade 4.5 at slightly more than double the grade 0 exposure.

Rough and ready split grade with sky burnt in at grade 0 – scanned without adjustments

This was more like what I saw. But still not quite. I decided to see whether I could improve on this using paper negative intermediates.

I dried the print with a hair-dryer and shaded more cloud into the sky on the back of the print with a soft pencil. I also spotted out some dust marks. I then contact printed it under glass onto Ilford FBWT paper having worked out an exposure time with test strips.

Paper negative, 3 minute development in multigrade 1+9

After drying the paper negative with a hair dryer, I lightened some areas with pencil on the back. I then contact printed this.

Here is the final image. I over exposed it knowing that I wanted to bleach back using very dilute bleach (potassium ferri at 1%) in the highlght areas of the crosses and grass, using a brush.

final image – scanned, no further adjustments

I think the sky is a little overdone, but I’m pleased with the overall result – quite gothic, as someone said to me. As an aside, I also like the effect of over printing followed by bleach reduction. I see the advantages of doing this to further draw the eye into key parts of the image and enabling the mind to settle there.