darkroom based photography

Trees and Rhododendron

Over the years, I have walked through this local wood about 500 times with Badger, my dog.

Here is a photograph printed at grade 2:

Royden Woods, HP5 developed in PMK and printer at grade 2, no dodging and burning. Scanned from print.

Each time I am struck by the short horizontal broken branches on the Scots Pines. I have taken many pictures, but the light has always been a problem, throwing up difficult-to-tame contrasts.

A few days ago, I finally got my chance: a misty day but with some sun. The previous days had seen some frost, so the Rhododendron leaves were all pointing down reflecting the light towards me.

I had my Mamiya-Six Automat with me with HP5 loaded. I didn’t have a spot meter, just a normal old Weston. I rated the film at 250 ISO and took a general reading angling the meter towards the Rhodies. I figured that I would need to open the lens up by 2-3 stops from the meter reading to give ample exposure to the mist. At f 5.6 that gave me a shutter time of 1/25th of a second. Not an ideal aperture and fairly slow for hand-held, but the Mamiya is a range-finder, so it was manageable. In any case, without a tripod I had few options. I had already decided that I would need to use a tolerant and compensating film developer.

Of course, what the camera sees is not what we see. I am not one for visualising a scene in the field. I have always found that this doesn’t come easily to me. My visualisation takes place in the darkroom and what I wanted to achieve was some separation of the tree trunks from the foliage and to bring out the Rhododendron leaves.

To achieve this I went down the split grade printing route, making sure to dodge grade 00 in the Rhododendon area and the sky through the trees and then burning grade 00 in the edges of the picture, particularly the sky. I also locally bleached the area in the foreground.

I burned at grade 5 those small broken branches and the right-hand side of the print.

I then split-toned the print in Sepia and Selenium to provide the separation I was looking for. I didn’t want a highly ‘sepia-ed’ look so I bleached the print for 5 seconds only and put it into the sepia bath for just 10 seconds. I then washed and Selenium toned (1:9) for 4 minutes. I then re-fixed.

The result:

Mamiya-Six Automat, F5.6/1/25 sec; Developed in PMK at 21C for 12 minutes, split grade printed on Ilford Portfolio RC pearl paper, split-toned in sepia and selenium; locally bleached. Scanned from print, no adjustments


  1. Frédérique Gerbaud

    The result is beautiful.
    The misty light seems to bring to life the various motifs, with nice but not too sharp contrasts of light and shadow on the foliage of the rhododendrons and on the branches of the pine trees. A kind of mystery pervades the image.

    • Sidewayseye

      Thank you Frédérique. Very kind.

  2. Bill Barnes

    Really delightful, and so interesting to see the differences between the two prints. Inspirational.

    • Sidewayseye

      Glad you like it Bill. Best regards

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2022 SidewaysEye

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑