The Kawaortho project

Posted by Adrian.

Last summer, I visited the Kawartha region with what I hoped was enough camera equipment to have some real fun. Unfortunately, I came back feeling that the digital body I brought, and the 35mm black and white film came up short. Sure, I got some nice pics of songbirds visiting the cottage, and I was almost happy with the shots of windswept trees taken from the boat. But on the way home, I couldn’t help but wish I’d brought the Hasselblad.

So this month, I’m heading to the same place again – Eels Lake, actually. That’s almost at Bancroft, Ontario, an area just between the Kawartha and the Algonquin regions. A land of small, but quiet and deep lakes. But instead of medium format, I’m going straight to 4×5 large format, and I’m going to try and put to good use the last box of Rollei Ortho film in the store.

For those of us who aren’t old enough to remember a time before “panchromatic” film (and that’s most of us), “orthochromatic” was an improvement on early films in that it could “see” wavelengths beyond the violet, blue, and green, and right down into the yellow and orange end of the spectrum. However, it was blind to red light – which allowed those little red windows on the back of box cameras – and allowed developing under the red safelight in the darkroom. The downside is that red colours appear as darker tones in the black and white image than you think they should (Santa would be wearing a black suit, for instance).

But that lack of red sensitivity is what makes older landscape photos look uniquely different from our B&W efforts these days, despite what filtering we attempt. So Rollei, and a few others have offered from time to time, the quirky, and contrasty, ortho emulsions – for those of us who like to stray from the beaten path.

But I’m not heading north with a film I’ve never tried before, without making sure I know how it works. So, Saturday, I loaded up two sheets in a holder, and shot the church across the street from the store – our favourite test target – one shot at ISO 25, and the second at EI 12.

Trouble is, my favourite developer, HC-110, isn’t recommended by anyone, anywhere, for Ortho 25. So I dug out my remaining bottle of Rodinal, and developed both sheets at 1:50.  The results suggest EI 12 is the way to go, but there’s no denying this is a snappy film. I’ll have to try hard to make sure I don’t reduce the northern pine forests to dark mush.

The next step will be to pack the bag – Customized Busch Pressman (see related article), Schneider 210mm and 90mm lenses, Minolta IV meter, eight film holders, cable release. As for filters, I probably only need a yellow, and my polarizer. I have to start following my own advice and make better use of a polarizer for B&W work. The tripod will be the gorgeous wooden Berlebach 9043, with the Manfrotto 410 geared head. Aside from the tripod, it all fits in a surprisingly small bag. That’s the beauty of the Busch – it’s such a small package, despite the revolving back. Movements are limited, but who needs all that much in the woods anyway?

Photos here are of the scanned church negative, and a blowup of a detail showing that slow 4×5 film … well.

More to come…

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~ by windsorphotooutfitters on August 2, 2011.

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