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Water Lilies

Central Image

We have enjoyed a cool summer in Ohio, bringing with it an abundance of lustrous days at Mansfield's Kingwood Center, a large estate full of rambling, formal gardens, greenhouses, and reflecting ponds. The water lilies in one particular pond first arrested my attention on Sunday, July 26th. In early afternoon, with gentle light filtering high from the right through trees, the "central" image appeared, just as you see it ! A glowing white bloom was in the upper right of the composition I visualized, a purplish bloom floated in the lower left, and a white feather in the lower right. The surface of the pond was telling a story of its own, and the lower halves of the lily plants were "suggestions" just below the surface. I incident metered the scene, taking the high reading in full light, with meter cheated a bit away from the sky to raise the value of the white bloom. There was no convenient shadow, so I took the low reading in my own shadow, standing directly in front of the visualized image. I used a 210 mm lens on my 4x5 camera, composed the image, then tilted the back to secure focus across the plane of the water. This movement produces a slight looming effect in the feather and near bloom, and effect I find pleasing. It was a still day, so I stopped down to f45 to ensure tack sharp focus; ExpoDev calculated a 1/4 second exposure. I considered use of a polarizing filter, but it would have reduced the interesting variations on the water's surface. I chose to print this image on Kodak Fine Art fiber-based paper with an ES of 1.10 for "grade 2" and to match it with Kodak 400 Tmax film, developed in DDX 1+6, to an average gradient of .64. The close up image was somewhat flat, I metered an SBR of about 6.0. The resulting expansion in development produces this image on the selected paper grade with few manipulations save a bit of burning of the edges, and a final burn of the lower glare on the lower right-hand water surface. Distance to the center of the image was about 57" from the lensboard; ExpoDev included an bellows extension factor of 1.37.

Left Image

Returning to Kingwood on August 17th, hoping for skyscapes but finding that all the clouds had vanished by the time I arrived, I had a look at the water lily pond in mid-afternoon. This three-bloom arrangement was glowing in a shaft of light that I feared would soon disappear! I scrambled to set up, compose, focus and meter. The SBR of this scene was 8.8, the result of the "spotlight" effect and few reflections on the leaves surrounding the blooms (I metered the high value in the light shaft, with meter cheated slightly away from the sky, the low in the shadow of a nearby grassy watery plant.) The surface of the water was quite even, with no disturbing glare or reflections, so I quickly decided against a polarizing filter. A gusty wind introduced a new challenge on this occasion, so I stopped down minimally (again using the 210mm lens), watching the ground glass until the middle bloom was in sharp focus; I obtained satisfactory focus at f 8. ExpoDev recommended f 8 1/2 at 1/60th of a second, an ideal combination for the conditions. I again chose Kodak FA paper, grade 2, and 400 Tmax film. This negative is a bit trickier to print, requiring that the leaf clusters in the upper right hand and center portions of the image be held back, along with the leaves in the lower left hand corner. The edges are then burned to frame the image.

Right Image

This image, taken from the north side of the pond (the first two were taken from the west side), was made at about 2:30 PM, and was back lighted, producing delicious reflections on the leaves, specular highlights where the leaf edges intersected the water's surface, and a challenging metering situation! The image I envisioned, farther out in the pond than the previous compositions, required the use of a 305 mm lens. The high incident reading was taken in full sun, with meter cheated toward the sky to hold the high values in the leaves. Not finding a suitable shadow simulation, I noticed my camera bag on the ground to my left, held up its cover, and took the reading about halfway into the shadow (my bag is dark grey and serves well for this purpose!) The resultant SBR was 8.5 and, with my choice of materials, ExpoDev called for an exposure of 1.82 seconds at f 45. I had to wait for mild breezes to abate before opening the shutter. ExpoDev contains a remarkably handy timer feature that gives a 3-second countdown, allowing plenty of time to hit the timer then trip the shutter release. The negative is quite easy to print on the targeted paper grade. I hold back the bloom a bit to raise its relative value, then give framing edge burns. This image is enlarged a bit more than the first two, to allow for cropping of a bright intrusion on the left margin.

I hope that the reader notices the relative ease with which each scene was metered. It certainly would have been possible, given the close-up conditions, to use a spot meter and a zone approach, but I would have taken more time to do so, probably scanning the image for luminance "spreads" and then trying to read small, selected values. Incident metering allowed me to operate quickly, confident I was locating the ends of the useful image scale and recording all that lay between in a desirable distribution on my selected film.

 

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Water Lily Triptych left

 

 

 

 

2003 Bill Waldron