Photography advertising, the invisible influence

The other day I came across a reproduction of a Leica advert from the late 1990s. They were advertising the then latest incarnation of the famous Leica rangefinder, the M6 TTL. As you might expect, the advert is aspirational and contains a carefully crafted studio shot of the camera.
 
The advert got me thinking about photography advertising, and more specifically its influence on me. We live in a world of sublimated desires driven by consumer advertising. We might not always reflect consciously on the effects of advertising, but they are measurable and real, as the gargantuan advertising budgets of the multi-national corporations attest.
 
What if my regard for my Leica M6 TTL was a product, albeit an indirect one, of this advert from the late 1990s? I don’t think I remember it specifically, and yet it has something of an uncanny familiarity. I had a little chuckle to myself, rolling this possibility around in my head. It may not be the whole story - I should hope not, a big chunk of my practice nought but the fulfilment of a market instruction - but there is a strong possibility that my desires were at some level shaped by the adverts of the time. It is sometimes said that we acquire in later life the cameras we once lusted after in our youth and when money was too short to make the dream a reality.
 
I wonder what other photography advertising has helped to shape my choices and paths through equipment and practice? I wonder which ones have shaped yours?
 

#TreePhotoGallery, Part 2

This week I'm pleased to present #TreePhotoGallery, Part 2.

In Part 1, I gathered together a fine selection of tree photographs by photographers on Twitter. The quantity and quality of submissions following my original call for work was so high that I promised a Part 2 - a promise I happily now keep.

I hope you enjoy the work. 

Tom Rayfield, Walk The Faded Line.

Tom Rayfield, Walk The Faded Line.

Tom's delicate piece cocks a snoot at the notion that central placement is to be avoided. The tonality is stunning: it allows the tree to be 'just' emergent; the viewer continues to do a double-take as the tree shimmers like a grey mirage. There is a tonal lesson too: the range is constrained in the middle values - but just look at its effect! Leading lines are at work from the bottom and the sides.

Matias Takala (@elfsprite), Lone Pine, Ilford HP5+ film.

Matias Takala (@elfsprite), Lone Pine, Ilford HP5+ film.

Matias' image works on so many levels. What a fine juxtaposition of the vulnerable tiny growth in the foreground and the expansive water and forest behind. A successful landscape image so often stands or falls on the foreground-to-background relationship. Matias' image is a great example of how to get it right. 

Analoguephotolab (@analogue_photo), Orwocolour NC19 film.

Analoguephotolab (@analogue_photo), Orwocolour NC19 film.

I enjoy the pale tonality and somewhat humanoid-like posturing of Analoguephoto's trees. It's shot on Orwocolour, a film with an interesting history and idiosyncratic colour palette. I haven't tried it, but from what I've seen I imagine it isn't a film for all occasions. It's an excellent choice here.

Adi Taylor, Twisted, the Owler Tor Tree, Ilford Delta 100 film.

Adi Taylor, Twisted, the Owler Tor Tree, Ilford Delta 100 film.

Great photos take great subjects and add photographic magic. That's exactly the case with Adi's image. Not only is the tree itself brimming with visual interest, but Adi's treatment adds fine tonality and careful composition. The square format can be quite a challenge, but here it reinforces the tree's stocky, powerful form.

Tim Dobbs, A Tree At Sunset, expired Fuji NPS 160 film.

Tim Dobbs, A Tree At Sunset, expired Fuji NPS 160 film.

Some photographs have the power to awaken senses other than just your vision. Tim's monochromatic piece does that for me: I sense a whiff of the early morning fresh air; or the cool rush of the day's end. The sun is carefully positioned, its light breaking through the branches just above the horizon. Like Tom's image above the tonality is subtle, and gives away more as the eye delves deeper and gets accustomed to the lower darkness.

Lina Forrester, Afternoon, freelensed with a 50mm lens and a Nikon D5300 camera.

Lina Forrester, Afternoon, freelensed with a 50mm lens and a Nikon D5300 camera.

A clever use of freelensing by Lina conveys the impression of wavering branches and fragile flowers in this poetic black and white photograph. It has something of a dream-like quality, a moment glimpsed but somehow not quite fixed, as a photograph should. Transience is key.

Sandeep Surmal, Southbank, London, Ilford SFX film with Infrared R72 filter.

Sandeep Surmal, Southbank, London, Ilford SFX film with Infrared R72 filter.

I see so many infrared images in which the effect itself is dominant. They seem to say first and foremost: 'look how infrared transforms our visual world'. Sandeep's image uses the infrared effect, for sure, but it does more photographically, because the effect is in the service of the photo, not the other way around. With their leaves transformed, the trees mirror the lamp posts, leading our eye down the Southbank promenade. The partly ghostly people on the left add a lovely visual punctuation mark.

Lucy Wainwright, Fuji Superia 400 film.

Lucy Wainwright, Fuji Superia 400 film.

Lucy's image is one which reminds me why I enjoy shooting film so much. It's hard to put into words, but the medium, with its bluish cast and gritty grain, add a gravitas to the struggle of the stalwart, gnarly tree. It's an image of survival: of steadfast resistance in the face of nature's unforgiving side.

A fine image to end a fine collection.

Here's a quick link to #TreePhotoGallery, Part 1 in case you missed it.

 


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Hahnemühle Photo Matt Fibre 200 gsm paper

Make a start in fine art inkjet printing

There is a beguiling range of inkjet printing papers available on today’s market, many of which have specialist characteristics and applications. If you are new to inkjet printing, or indeed are simply in the mood for a different support, it can be difficult to know which paper to choose.

I have several paper types that I regularly use, each for a different purpose. Among these is a category that I might call the inkjet equivalent of a straight print in the darkroom. Having made a first stab at processing an image, I want to print it out and begin to make decisions on how to proceed. I will return to processing, print again, and repeat as necessary. Towards the end of this procedure I will include the final paper, usually one of the most expensive available. The paper I use first will be an ‘economical’ one (for reasons of economy, naturally), but, crucially, must not be so far removed from the final type as to introduce a jump or glitch in the process. It’s pointless to work on a draft version of a print, only to have to start processing from scratch once the end paper is introduced.

A paper has recently come to my attention that I have considered for this draft / straight print role. It is Hahnemühle Photo Matt Fibre 200 gsm. You have to tread carefully with affordable matt papers because at the lower end of the market you may not achieve the kind of quality you need. In point of fact, I remember thinking for some time that printing on matt supports wasn’t worth the trouble - until I discovered fine art matt media. The problem was that the image was rendered with a noticeable grainy structure (quite unlike film grain, incidentally) that gave the image a rather un-photographic quality. A quality matt paper will not suffer this, rendering your image in a smooth and photographic fashion, with good tonal transitions.

The price point of Photo Matt Fibre suggests that it is an economical but not a budget paper. It is significantly cheaper that Photo Rag Matt (one of my favourite final print papers), at nearly half the price. Hahnemühle themselves advertise it as a good first paper for fine art work. I’d like to second that view here and recommend it myself as a good place to start.

A draft print on Hahnemühle Photo Matt Fibre 200 gsm. Made using an Epson R3000 printer.

A draft print on Hahnemühle Photo Matt Fibre 200 gsm. Made using an Epson R3000 printer.

I like two things about this paper. First, it has the aforementioned quality of rendering a photographic-type image that I consider the sine qua non of inkjet printing. Second, it is not a thin paper at 200 gsm, and comes with a slight texture reminiscent of more expensive fine art matt papers. I can therefore get very close to my final print with this media, before using my preferred exhibition paper.

Good tonality, the ability to render sharp details and a gentle fine art texture are qualities of Photo Matt Fibre.

Good tonality, the ability to render sharp details and a gentle fine art texture are qualities of Photo Matt Fibre.

There are two possibilities here then, as I see it. Either you’re starting out and are on safe ground with this paper as a first matt paper choice and a taste of fine art printing; or you’re already printing and might consider it as a replacement to your draft matt. In either scenario Photo Matt is a sound, keenly priced option.

 

You can buy Photo Matt Fibre via this link from Amazon:


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#TreePhotoGallery, Part 1

If you read my prior post you'll know this gallery has come about thanks to a whimsical call for photographers to confess with me an obsession for trees. Credit must be given to @EMULSIVEfilm and @AukjeKastelijn who were party to the original conversation. They do, however, take no responsibility for the gallery that follows, and the editorial choices and omissions are mine.

The response to the call has been quite amazing. Some very fine work has been shared, unfortunately more than I am able to include here. I clearly did, however, feel it was a pity not to give at least some of the work a home, hence this gallery. I have set aside more images for a 'Part 2', so watch this space.

I hope you enjoy the gallery.

 

Dustin Veitch, First Light August 2016, Ilford FP4+ film developed in Kodak HC110 1+100.

Dustin Veitch, First Light August 2016, Ilford FP4+ film developed in Kodak HC110 1+100.

An ethereal atmosphere dominates Dustin's black and white image. The play of light and shadow has an intangible quality, as if we could be looking at multiple exposures.

 

Ribnar Mazumdar, The Sentinels, Fuji Veliva 50 film.

Ribnar Mazumdar, The Sentinels, Fuji Veliva 50 film.

A colourful sky pervades Ribnar's image, but it is the play of scale that intrigues me. How big are the two dominant trees? The tower in the middle? The tiny trees at the bottom of the frame? A great use of composition and scale.

 

Matt Parry, Glowing Green, Provia 100f film.

Matt Parry, Glowing Green, Provia 100f film.

Matt's image has a strong graphic structure punctuated by the delicate, back-lit emerging leaves. A contrast of the old and immutable trunks, and the young, delicate regrowth.

 

Monika (@DrMarsRover), Silence, Paradise, Mt Rainier, Ilford HP5+ film.

Monika (@DrMarsRover), Silence, Paradise, Mt Rainier, Ilford HP5+ film.

In this near monochromatic image by Monika, trees take on the disguise of fallen snow. There is a palpable sense of the weight of the snow and the resistance put up by the unyielding trees. The strong diagonal from top left to bottom right visually reinforces this exchange of forces.

 

Barnaby Nutt, 200 Seconds Over Ullswater, shot digitally using a 10-stop neutral density filter.

Barnaby Nutt, 200 Seconds Over Ullswater, shot digitally using a 10-stop neutral density filter.

I particularly enjoy the crisp, shape-defining light in this neatly composed piece by Barnaby. The details are fine and the tonality expansive.

You can find more of Barnaby's work over at his website. Click his image above for the link or go to barnabynutt.com.

 

Emulsive (@EMULSIVEfilm), Kodak ULTRAMAX 400 film shot at EI 25.

Emulsive (@EMULSIVEfilm), Kodak ULTRAMAX 400 film shot at EI 25.

Emulsive's submission seemingly hails from another planet. It was born through experimentation, specifically pre-heating the film before development, that resulted in the strong colour cast. The treatment somehow suits the character of the tree, its shape and demeanour.

 

Nick Trujillo, Lone Cypress, Pebble Beach, CA, Fuji Reala 100 film, developed using an Arista C-41 kit.

Nick Trujillo, Lone Cypress, Pebble Beach, CA, Fuji Reala 100 film, developed using an Arista C-41 kit.

The choice of film and development have undoubtedly played a role in Nick's fine image. There's a relationship between colour palette, format and subject matter that sings to my eye. I also admire the careful framing - it can be really hard to manage the closer elements in such shots from afar.

 

Philip Constant, Two Trees, Santiam Hills, Ilford Delta 100 film, lab developed by Ilford USA

Philip Constant, Two Trees, Santiam Hills, Ilford Delta 100 film, lab developed by Ilford USA

There is a poetic simplicity to Philip's image, an emptiness, and yet a dialogue. The two trees stand separate (and are compositionally in danger of becoming unrelated), and yet they feed-off each other, two central characters in some undisclosed drama. The tonal key is just right, and clouds both lend interest to the sky and bridge the central divide.

 


Thank you for looking, and I hope you enjoyed the work as much as I did. Please do look out for the second instalment, coming soon. 

#TreePhotoGallery

Yesterday I started a thread on Twitter about trees. The premise was simple: photographers love to photograph trees, so share a tree photo if that's you. The response was overwhelming. I have shared some of the initial responses, but as I began to lose track I started to think that the images deserved a home.

To make the exercise a little more interesting, I intend to publish a small selection on this blog, along with some brief comments as to what I like about each image. A mini, appreciative, review if you will. If I have the images, I will publish more than one instalment.

There are some terms and conditions, as ever, to this, so please do take note. I'm selecting according to my own taste (and as a confirmed tree photographer obsessive). Please don't be offended if your image isn't selected: it's not a verdict on your work, and reflects more my predilections. There may simply be some aspect of film or processing choice and so forth that I'm just not into. Participants agree to publication on this website, and therefore license me, without charge, free and unhindered use of their image. The copyright will of course remain with the photographer. I will also share chosen images on Twitter and possibly other social media channels, and so participants agree to this too.

To enter please share the tweet below and post your image using the hashtag #TreePhotoGallery. If you already used the hashtag #TreePhoto, you're already in, and I will contact you for permission if I select one of your images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Developer for FP4+ poll result

And so we have a winner ....

Firstly, thanks to everyone who took part. As a little bit of fun, I asked readers to vote for their favourite developer for FP4+, based on Pebble Project gallery results. Naturally, the result is limited by the nature of on-screen viewing and the imperfections of the little poll (sample size and so on). Not a scientific endeavour!

Having said that, the results were interesting. Out of 25 responses (pleasantly surprising in itself), DDX came out on top with 8 votes. It was followed closely by R09, which received 6. Perceptol had 4 votes; Ilfosol and HC garnered 3 each. LC29 received but 1, which is quite surprising given its balance of qualities. I did wonder how much the voters' own experiences influenced their vote (i.e. was the vote for developer familiar to them, rather than a judgement of the Pebble results). 

I will leave the poll open, which opens up the possibility of returning to it at future date to see if the results remain the same.

Which developer for FP4+ film?

Here's a bit of fun.

I thought I'd run a little developer popularity contest, based on Pebble Project results and FP4+ film (which I have the most results for). I'm asking you to take a stab at your favourite using on-screen results, so no need to be too precious (of course, you may have your experiences to draw on too).

Results to follow!

What's your favourite film developer for FP4+ so far? *
Looking at the Pebble Project Gallery results for FP4+, which developer do you prefer? Please select only one option.

P.S. Pebble Project gallery can be accessed under 'resources' on the main menu, or just click this link:

Tone: a primer (post 5)

Games to play

Welcome to the final post of my Tone: A Primer series. 

Today I’m going to look at some exercises you can do in order to sharpen your command of tone in black and white. They are suggestions and starting points and can be modified to suit your own practice and equipment. I have endeavoured to ensure that there is material for both film and digital users, although the final exercise is a film one. They are given broadly in order of difficulty.

1. Play with exposure

If you are relatively new to photography, it is well worth beginning with a simple exposure exercise. Try reproducing the modest exercise I explain in post two (under the heading ‘A sliding scale of grey’). Easy to do, but insightful if you are starting out. You are in control of the tones in your images.

2. Shoot black and white things

I have Jevon Tooth to thank for this exercise. When Jevon showed me some of his great black and white prints, it was obvious that he had deliberately targeted black and white objects in order to hone his vision in the medium (e.g. some very lightly toned grasses against a painted black fence). The thought had never occurred to me! A simple but very effective to way get a sense of how black and white tonality can work in crafting images.

3. Strive for tonal variation

For this exercise, I’d like you to prepare and print an image that contains different areas of clearly distinguished tone. Whether you are working with digital or darkroom, the task is to use dodging and burning (or equivalent tools) to help separate distinct zones within the image, and to use this to draw the viewer’s attention to the main subject.

A warmtone darkroom print showing careful modulation of tone, with a strong main subject that is tonally distinct from its environment.

A warmtone darkroom print showing careful modulation of tone, with a strong main subject that is tonally distinct from its environment.

Traditionally, this involves keeping the subject (especially if a person) fairly light tonally (this catches the eye) and to darken surrounding areas, particularly edges, so as to create a frame. Darkened edges are known as a vignette. 

Yet further than this, it is important to make decisions about how to create a sense of contrast between the image zones. Perhaps a very light area of window light needs to burnt-in just a tad, so as to lend a little more solidity to it. Maybe an area at the end of a road in a landscape needs lightening to distinguish it from surrounding trees and to lead the viewer’s eye through the image. Perhaps a little collection of objects near the bottom of the frame is too light and competes with the subject that is more central. Knock it back with a gentle burn-in.

4. Shoot the zones

This exercise was devised by John Blakemore. It assumes some familiarity with the zone system, or, at least with the tones that are demarcated by it. Summaries of the zones and their corresponding descriptions abound on the internet, so one of these is a good place to start.

You begin by choosing a zone and attempt to make a photograph that encapsulates its mood. So, I might choose zone four, say, looking carefully at the tone given in the charts and mulling over the description I have found of ‘average dark foliage, dark stone, landscape shadow’.

The challenge with this exercise - and a challenge it indeed is - is that you are trying to make an image that still holds a range of tones, but that somehow summarises the feeling of the zone in question. You may of course use any development or printing controls you have at your disposal to make the print that you think is appropriate. There is no right or wrong to this, it’s simply a very good exercise for understanding the tonal range available to black and white photographers.

Excepting some of the lighter areas, in particular the cottage, this image strikes me as having something of a zone three / four mood.

Excepting some of the lighter areas, in particular the cottage, this image strikes me as having something of a zone three / four mood.

5. Make a ring-around

For this exercise I’m going to assume that you are using a film (and developer) with some regularity, and that you have a pretty well-established development regime.

You will need to shoot three rolls of film. Firstly, shoot your typical subjects at ‘box speed’ (i.e. the ISO as stated on the film box). For example, if you are shooting HP5+, you would go with 400. It does help to have one or two test subjects (e.g. a given room with consistent lighting) that will provide a reference point across the films.

Next, you shoot more of your typical subjects (re-do that test subject too) but this time at a stop under and a stop over that box speed. You might simply want to change the ISO on your camera, so that you can simply get on with shooting. Therefore, in my 400 speed example, I would shoot some frames at 800 and some at 200. It takes some discipline, but it’s really worth making note of all your exposures as you do this exercise.

When the films are finished you then develop them in the following way. For the first you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the developer in question. Opening up my box of HP5+ I find a handy chart which will tell me the time with the developer I'm using. For the next film you add 20 percent to the development time, so as to ‘over-develop’ the film. You may have guessed that for the remaining film you are going to reduce the original manufacturer’s time by 20 percent. This will give you ‘under-development’.

When you are done developing you make a contact print of the results, in your usual manner. In the following image you can see just such a contact print, here showing the ‘normal’ development, and what is labelled +1 and -1, meaning our +20 and -20 percent. I have asked you to do a lot of hard work so far, but already you have a lot of really interesting information. Do you prefer the manufacturer’s development time, or the over- or under-developed version?

Contact print showing 'normal' development (centre), under-development (left) and over-development (right)

Contact print showing 'normal' development (centre), under-development (left) and over-development (right)

Next you can look for frames that you overexposed. What do you think of overexposure and underdevelopment? Or of overexposure and overdevelopment? Which tonality do you prefer? Here is my contact print showing overexposure. The development sequence is the same as the image above, so left under, middle normal and right over.

The underexposed frames then complete the picture. Again, which is the best tonality, for you and your typical subjects? What does the test scene suggest?

There is some more work to do, because this exercise can be brought to a brilliant conclusion. The last step is to print a selection of the images (logically you’d do nine, as suggested by the contact prints above) aiming for the best possible print in each case. In other words, you don’t print them all to some standardised time and grade, but make the best possible print using all the usual controls that are available to you.

You now have a huge amount of information about your shooting and developing regime and with luck some interesting new exposure and development settings to trial over a longer period. You are not stuck with whole stops or indeed 20 percent, but can make further refinements as you progress. Not a quick or easy exercise but potentially a very fruitful one.
 

Tone: a primer (post 4)

If you've followed this series this far, I thank you for your patience and hope you'll find something of interest in today's post. I plan to do one final post after this, a collection of practical exercises to help improve your command of tone. If you are tuning-in to this series for the first time, this post will make sense on its own, but I would recommend checking out the preceding ones in order to get the most out of it.

Recipes of tone

I turn my attention now to providing some examples, in order to show what ‘recipes’ of tone are available. The images are taken from my own practice; however I should add that the history of photography is brimming with examples from numerous different schools. We might think of Bill Brandt and the English School, the endless greys of Paul Strand’s Palladium prints, or the rich and varied tones of Group f/64.

Wide tonal range

My first example is of a long tonal range, running from pure black, through a range of differentiated greys, and finally to very light grey, nearly white. This image is representative of what is often the default advice given to photographers, namely to ensure that their images contain multiple areas of distinct tone that can please the eye. The histogram looks like this:

A histogram is a graph showing the distribution of tones. The horizontal axis represents the different tones available, running from pure black on the left to pure white on the right. The vertical axis represents the quantity of pixels in the image it maps, so that the peaks indicate dominant tones. The benefit of a histogram is that it helps you to visualise tonal distribution without being fooled by the image itself. This particular histogram broadly backs up what I said about wide-ranging tone, but you will see that there is more to the story. More accurately, the peak on the left shows the image to be rich in shadow tones; on the right we see a smaller, but also significant, group of light tones. The histogram ‘crashes’ with the left hand side, showing that pure blacks are present, but is still a little way off white on the right. The lightest tones are therefore ‘nearly white’. We might therefore speak of an image that has a goodly tonal range in shadow areas and in the very light greys through the arch.

Pale tone with dark elements

The tonal approach or strategy in this image is to have a largely light image with a smattering of punctuating dark tones. The eye is therefore drawn to the darker areas, which in this case helps to support the inferred narrative.

The gentle light greys of the background provide some substance, but because they fall within a certain portion of the histogram they don’t compete with the main protagonists. They contain subtle modulations of tone (and indeed there are some crisp near white points too) rather than being an undifferentiated mass of a single grey. They don’t interfere, but they are not flat and lifeless. The histogram looks like this:

We can see that the very dark tones are not quite black (although the seem like it to our eye), likewise there are very light greys and only tiny amounts of white. The majority of the tones are over to the right, as we would expect given our description.

High contrast

A high contrast image is one in which the darks and lights dominate, grey tones are largely or completely absent. This is a digital image, but were this a darkroom print, we would most probably be looking at a 3 or 4 contrast grade. The window structure is a near silhouette, and is black and very dark grey. The sky beyond has gone over to white. There are some more subtle greys from the middle of the scale in the building, but they take a minor role, as reflected in the histogram:

I am not a photographer who favours high contrast images, and I in fact struggled to find good examples from my archive. I gave this image a little extra contrast in order to provide the illustration here. Such an approach is a very graphic style which favours bold shapes and outlines. In film photography, high contrast leads to pronounced grain and is often associated with low light work with fast films, or average speed films that have been ‘pushed’ in development (exposed at a higher ISO than box speed, with compensated development to avoid negatives which are too thin).

As I searched for images I begin to wonder about my own photographic style and why I had made such little use of graphic contrast. Such thinking leads to interesting questions about habits and assumptions and whether we are not missing out on creative possibilities. Naturally, there is no rule that says one must be using all established approaches to tone in one’s work (life would be very dull if we all did). Yet I think there is a job of reflection that we can do given a knowledge of how tone works and what we haven’t tried. To paraphrase a master printer I admire, how do we know we don’t like the alternative if we haven’t tried it?

High contrast scene, exposed for the lights

This recipe entails exposing for patches of light tone in very high contrast situations. It is very fashionable at the time of writing. The photographer typically applies negative exposure compensation and allows the shadow areas to lose definition. It is like the high contrast approach above, inasmuch as it can be very graphical, but the crucial difference is that the favoured areas still potentially contain a wide tonal range. It is used mainly by street photographers and has the clear benefit of helping to establish areas of interest and narrative interaction. The photographer can make frames within the images, sometimes multiple ones, which connect and juxtapose the chance elements of the street.

Long, expansive greys

My final formula is one much exploited in the history of photography, and that is of a fulsome range of greys. The idea here is to have midtones that reach outwards such that a harmonious scale of differentiated tone is apparent. The photographer tries to maximise tonal information, downplaying, but not eschewing, the extremities, whilst maintaining tonal transition and modulation. Black and white aren't entirely absent, but they do not present themselves as much as in the 'wide tonal range' recipe with which we began.

The histogram for tree image above shows abundant midtones invading the space to the sides. There is a huge amount of tonal information here and the photographer has to take care not to let the image appear too muddy.

The histogram for tree image above shows abundant midtones invading the space to the sides. There is a huge amount of tonal information here and the photographer has to take care not to let the image appear too muddy.

Platinum / Palladium prints are notorious for providing a tonal recipe like this. The don't exactly lack contrast, and certainly not tonal differentiation in a good print, but the scale of grey just seems to go on and on. I don't think it's an accident that the example I've chosen from my own practice comes from a 5x4 negative. Large format has an inherent ability to capture smooth tonal transitions, in no small part due to the sheer size of the negative and the information captured. Tones still need to be managed, of course, through exposure, developer choice and development and dodging and burning, but the photographer is in a strong position to achieve the effect to begin with.

My example was shot on Ilford Delta 100 Professional film and developed in LC29. Delta 100 is extremely fine grained in large format, and LC29 gives wholesome contrast without becoming overpowering. With a negative like this, one can dodge and burn gently to tease out distinct areas of tone, emphasising the range at one's disposal and avoiding 'muddiness'.

Indeed, avoiding a mass of undifferentiated tone is the key challenge in pursuing expansive greys. With such prevalent midtones it is easy to lose a grip of contrast. An image of expansive greys still needs to be tuned with gentle modulations of tone to provide a story and a journey for the eye. Too many similar tones will quickly repel the eye and return a feeling of flatness. The photographer must find subtly and tonal richness without relying on more familiar devices of contrast and distinction. As with so many different photographic media and techniques you can't have it all ways and have to work within the set of compromises you have chosen. 

Next instalment: Games to play (the exercises)