Mid January late afternoon and the rain was coming in squalls with the occasional sun bursting through cloud gaps. I decided that the conditions were promising for some pictures on the Heswall shore.

My plan was to photograph with my manual Nikon 35mm camera with a 50mm lens and a tripod. I find pre-visualising a scene to be quite difficult. I knew that I wanted to capture the dark clouds but also to have the horizon line distinct from the ground. I also wanted to capture the sense of boats abandoned for the winter.

I had Ilford HP5 Plus in the camera. I decided that grain would be important to the picture but that some compensation and acutance was also necessary. So I planned on developing the picture in Rodinal at 1:50 dilution.

The subject brightness range was over 7 stops, so some curtailment of development would be necessary to get the tonal range within the paper’s capability. I rated HP5 at EI 320 and developed the film for 25% less than the time recommended for box speed. I also reduced agitation to 3 inversions every minute after the first minute. The first minute received 30 seconds of slow inversions.

The wind was quite strong and gusty, but apart from the clouds and the wind speed instrument at the top of the boat’s mast and the odd bit of grass, there was little movement. I set the the lens for f8 to give some depth of field, which gave me a shutter speed of 1/15 second. I would have preferred f11, but I was a little concerned about movement. Hence the tripod. I carry some old coffee cup lids for marsh work to prevent my tripod legs sinking into the mud. I waited for a gap between wind gusts and took the picture .

Printing the picture was quite straightforward. Most of my pictures are split-grade printed as I find this to be as quick and as efficient as single grade printing. I have learned to make many small strip readings for each important area of the image at different grades, which means that I rarely have to go beyond one test print of the whole scene.

Below is the split grade adjustments on top of the base exposure of Grade (00): 8 seconds and Grade (5): 30 seconds:

Split-grade adjustments

This image was never destined as a fine print. I think 35mm photography is best used when grain adds to a composition. I decided to split-tone the image to further differentiate light from dark tones and to counteract the quite blue tinge of Ilford Portfolio paper. I bleached the picture in Ferri for just 8 seconds, until the highlights were just being bleached. I knew that bleaching would continue in the water stop bath for a few more seconds. I then toned in thiocarbamide, which I make up in proportions to give a particular tone, depending on the situation. Here I used 20% alkali.

I then put the picture into 1:9 selenium for 5 minutes and then re-fixed the picture. The final result from a scan of the print and adjusting dark and light points to make the image look like the print:

Heswall Shore © Tony Cearns

4 thoughts on “Heswall Shore

  1. I really like the progression of the print from planning to split toning. It reminds me very much of my workflow! The photograph is strongly composed with the little stream leading me straight to the subject and beyond to the yacht on the horizon. Rodinal was a good choice, one I would have not made with a fast film in 35mm but you showed me what you could do with it. Yes, very nice, thank you

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