Can a playground provide a motif for a series of b&w pictures? There’s only one way to find out – so I stepped through the gate. It was one of those sunny early winter mornings where the light is intense but not extremely harsh yet. Shadows are pronounced but there is still hope to get back more than just the deepest blacks along with the brightest whites. Adox Silvermax at 100 seems like a good choice. Its contrast range is advertised as 14 stops, so let’s put it to test.
But wait, what’s the challenge we are facing here? To me, it is one of creativity and that usually means I roll better with fewer gear options. That being said, I am glad to have picked a 35mm lens for my M2, as this is what my eye is most trained with.
It turns out, the playground is not only one for kids but also one for photographers. The Swiss approach to designing such sites certainly makes the endeavour a more interesting one with plenty of opportunities to focus on patterns, geometry and symmetry. The rigour of the arrangement does not exactly come across as playful and as I continue to shoot I can’t wrap my head around whether that’s a contradiction or not. Certainly it’s a question kids won’t bother with. But maybe it’s a contrast for photographers to play with. That’s at the heart of this series.
A stroll, an unexpectedly interesting place and there go a few decent shots. What will be the next ‘playground’? That place with an atmosphere to dive into and an opportunity to shoot a small series to convey it? Let’s face it, those are rare and a single shot caught somewhere on the way is rather the norm for me. Being out, being in the mood, being lucky, it all helps but maybe there is also a certain resistance in us film shooters we have to overcome initially. A series of shots is not just a financial stake, it is also our creativity going out on a limb claiming that there is ‘more to the scene’ and that proof will be given on the light box later. Nobody likes disappointments but I am convinced that this risk in the analog process is matched with a great opportunity to learn to focus on what truly matters for the photograph and particularly for a series.
Some technical remarks: The film was developed in the recommended Adox Silvermax developer and the scene contrast seems to be captured very well. Of course, the tonal range is concentrated at the extremes. Was it 14 stops? Hard to tell for me but the film is definitely one I come back to often, especially when paired with a fast lens. The lens used here is a Summilux 35mm but that likely did not make any difference under the given conditions, only the penultimate shot was taken somewhat wide open.
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