I would be the first to admit that I haven’t taken advantage of the recent need to stay local by investigating the photographic possibilities of what lies but a short distance from my front door. However, pleased with the results achieved when using up my small stock of expired FP4 Plus developed in Rodinal, I am now attempting to remedy this failing.
I had read that Rodinal can accentuate grain, but I can’t say that I’ve noticed this. Not that I’ve ever been overly bothered by grain. Like brush marks in a painting, it is part of the medium.
Being particularly impressed by the rendition of contrast produced by this film and developer combination, I decided to look for subjects to exploit this. For the purpose of this exercise, I chose a couple of old favourites – a Minolta SRT 101b and a Rokkor 35mm. I’m very fond of Minoltas, especially the lumpy SRT series which does have its idiosyncrasies – the awkward meter on/off and battery check switch on the base plate and the rather long throw of the wind-on. All that is more than made up for, at least for me, by Rokkor lenses which I find to be silky smooth both in operation and imaging.
Living as I do in south-east London I’m lucky in that I have almost immediate access to the 40-mile network of footpaths known as the Green Chain Walk which meanders from the Thames to Crystal Palace.
A word of caution, though, for prospective explorers. Despite its name it’s not all green by any means and you may come away having found some parts to have been, in the words of Samuel Johnson, “worth seeing, yes, but not worth going to see”. As one blurb coyly puts it, it “also passes some interesting urban areas”.
So, where to go to look for contrast? Actually, not very far at all, certainly not as far as Crystal Palace. In fact, just beyond that sign post.
And I hadn’t gone far down that path when I glanced behind me to discover that the tree which was lurking in the shadows had assumed a Tolkienesque appearance and had crept out to see what I was up to.
This was almost a eureka moment as it set me thinking not just of contrast as an element of the image but also the contrasting aspects of a subject depending on the viewpoint.
Photos of trees are like Marmite, you either love them or hate them, and even if you love them you can have too many of them. With that in mind I made no apologies to myself for doubling back to Avery Hill, which is after all on the Green Chain Walk, to see if I could capture something of the Winter Garden that I was unable to do on my last visit.
The frontage, looking out onto the park in the slanting afternoon sunlight, yielded a suitably contrasty, if closely cropped image.
Making a mental note to try it with a 28mm sometime, I wandered behind it to find, literally in its shadow as evidenced by the reflection of the cupola on the roof, one of the college’s more recent, if less inspiring, additions to the campus site’s architectural heritage.
Only five frames of of two aspects of contrast? I’m sure there must be a lot more just beyond my front door. All I’ve got to do is look for them.
One last technical detail to end with. Given the wide variation of light and shadow I dispensed with attempting to use a meter. All exposures were best guesstimates backed up by bracketing.