On a trip last year around the coast of France and along the Spanish foothills of the Pyrenees, I wanted to take along some film that had a slightly different character to my usual, old school FP4. Being a convert to Ilford from Kodak it sort of made sense to give Delta 100 a go. In my olden days, it might have been a switch from Plus-X to TMAX 100 but I think my Kodak days are over. Fifteen quid a roll is just not on for me anymore even though Tri-X was my bread and butter in the 1980s (especially at 1600). At the risk of digressing, just why is Kodak film nearly twice the price of, say, Ilford? I’ve seen articles on why we need to support emulsion-producers like Kodak, but can’t remember the reasons why two mainstream manufacturers have such wildly disparate product prices.
Anyway, I took FP4 and Delta 100 on the trip and I was very pleased with how the Delta 100 worked for me in Rodinal, my bog standard developer. I use Rodinal for everything as it’s all I have. Well, it was until I started experimenting with Pyro 510 a few months ago.
A lot of the photos from that trip were, disappointingly, a bit meh. I think my mojo was confused and misshapen and I was taking photographs for the sake of it. Hoping for the best. A bit too keen to take photos without properly looking at what I was seeing. After the fact, contemplating them now, I’m thinking “what was I thinking?” and not enough thinking at the time. I’m sure we’ve all had times/periods like that.
Sometimes though, a set of images emerge that are a perfect marriage of scene, film and developer. The inner vision somehow emerges, takes over, and technically and emotionally, wins out.
These photographs were taken on the pink granite coast in northern Brittany. And despite the name, they are classic, text book monochrome scenes.
One of the things that endears me to them is the fine but sharply defined grain. Grain expertly delivered in venerable and precise style by the ageless Rodinal. Grain that is in perfect harmony with the mood and subject. A sensual mix of form, texture and tonality.
For me, it’s quite uncommon to see this in my photographs. When it happens though, I get inspired and invigorated all over again. I’m sure we all have some of our own images that we could look at all day long. Our own images that we are truly touched by. It’s why we do it – to create those images. When I buy (when I choose to buy) a photobook it’s usually because I get that same feeling about the selection of the images in the book. About the editing process. Especially if it’s a short book. A very tightly edited (and beautifully printed) photobook is an opportunity to lovingly look at, and see, someone else’s most cherished images.
The surprising success of a 50mm lens in a landscape context is also quite a revelation – helped by the long depth of field which I seem to remember dialling in at the time despite the short, misty mid-morning exposure times. Maybe because, apart from the one that is a landscape, the others aren’t.
Feather in the cap for Delta 100 in Rodinal.
More of my work is on Instagram where you’ll see that I’m also a polymer photogravure printer and a lino cutter and printer.
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