Erin series
Water Lilies
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Erin series

These images are from an on-location shoot in March of this year and represents one of my early forays into flash photography using BTZS principles. The image was recorded on Kodak 400 TMax 4x5" (TMY) film and printed on Kodak Polymax Fine Art FB, a combination I chose based on a pleasing (to me) gradation discovered by matching the two materials in the Matcher software program. I also like the crisp, cool "color" of this particular paper.

The match I like is achieved by exposing and developing the negative for a density range of .90, or to an average G of .43, which calls for an equivalent contrast grade (on my enlarger) of about grade 3. I use a Zone VI enlarger with variable contrast head; contrast grade 3 is achieved with settings of SOFT: D, HARD: Max.

The location of this shoot was a two-and-a-half hour drive from home, so I didn't take time to evaluate conditions in advance. I wistfully hoped for a wall of windows through which would be shining soft, diffuse light. It was, after all, a dance studio. I packed my portable light kit just in case, along with some large white and foil-covered reflectors.

The day turned out to be very grey and chilly and the studio, windowless and illuminated with a greenish-yellowish light from old flourescent fixtures. The studio we were given permission to use was full of clutter, all of which was either in the way or reflecting in most of the wall mirrors. One corner provided an unobstructed view for the model and her reflection in a mirror to the left.

I set the key light to the right of the camera and about 6 feet from the floor. The fill shines in from the left, on a line about parallel to the wall. I'd never worked with mirrors before and tried only to set the lights at an angle that would illuminate the dancer satisfactorily, but "glance" from the reflecting surfaces. The location of the lights can be deduced by noting the shadows on the adjoining walls!

Using an incident meter set to flash mode, I first metered the "key" side of the subject, with the meter pointed at the lens. I then tucked the meter into the shadow of the key light, to the left of the model (viewed from the camera position.) I adjusted the lights, moving them in and out, until I obtained a two-stop difference, or an SBR of 7. My effective film speed (EFS) for TMY is 400, so I doubled this, entered it in the meter, obtaining a LO exposure setting of f11, the aperture used for these images, at a shutter speed of 1/125th second.

The model's leotard was a deep burgundy, and prints nearly black when the print controls are set to "grade 3" and the model's face is rendered in the low end of Zone VI (about .38 RD.) I tried a few work prints at "grade 2", but the overall effect was flat and uninteresting.

My film and paper data were developed using standard BTZS procedures, including graphing in WinPlotter. The film files were then transferred to ExpoDev, which I use in the field, but not for flash photography for the obvious reason that the flash duration establishes the "shutter speed."

A technical note. My film holders contained tiny dust particles and fibers that are all too evident in these "high key" prints. Having spent hours bleaching and spotting, I now brush out my holders thoroughly with an electrostatic brush and then vacuum them with a small machine made for computers. It's a tiny investment of time that's regained ten-fold later.

I welcome feedback, questions, and commentary!







2003 Bill Waldron