Large Format Landscape Photography in Pouring Rain
Two weeks ago I launched commercially available hand coated 4×5 glass dry plates meaning I spent a lot of time in my shipping container darkroom producing, packing and sending them all around the world. It’s an incredible honor to be able to bring some history back and produce light sensitive materials that others can make images with. If you would like to try them out they are available in my Store. I really love doing it but I also love to be out in the field and explore the nature. It has been a while since I packed my camera along with some dry plates and ventured out so I just couldn’t wait a second more.
We had horrible weather in the last few days here in Slovenia with above average winter temperatures and lots of rain. I planned to wait for a nicer day and go up into the mountains but with so much new snow the risk of an avalanche is just too high! So I packed my Intrepid 4×5 and two 9x12cm glass dry plates and drove towards the river of Kamniška Bistrica that springs in the northern Slovenia close to Austrian border. I grew up here so I am very familiar with the area, after all I was searching for the Tree of Life in the same forests a few VIDEOs ago. It was Sunday so I started early to avoid the crowds. My goal was to visit a very deep canyon called Predaselj. When I arrived it was very cloudy but there was no sign of any rain so I parked the car and started the hike. I love shooting on cloudy days as there are no crowds and the light is much softer. Rocks and leaves often have a special sheen on them which brings much more texture to the shot especially when using blue sensitive emulsion.
I followed the trail that leads to a small chunk of rocks and gravel at the very bottom of the canyon. It offers a great view straight into the hearth of steep rocky walls. When I reached the spot I started searching for the best composition. When I was ready to assemble the camera I started feeling the first rain drops. In just a few minutes intensity increased to the point I was forced to find a shelter. Luckily there was a big rock under an angle just besides the river that I ran under and it offered me a few meters of roof. My plan was to wait until the rain calms down a bit but of course it didn’t. At this point I was thinking about what to do. I really liked the mood and the view from where I was standing so I have decided to make the first shot straight from under the rocky shelter. I set the camera as fast as I could and pressed the shutter. I used wide angle lens Schneider-Kreuznach Super Angulon 90mm with f8 aperture. I would love to go with a higher aperture to get more sharpness throughout but because of the rain clouds there was not much light left. Even with a low aperture my exposure was extremely long at 1min 20 sec.
When I was done with the first shot rain calmed down a bit so with my camera being soaking wet already I have decided to make a run to the other side and expose my second plate as well. Everything went well and it got much brighter as well so my exposure for the second shot was 12sec at f/8. I packed the camera and wiped everything off with the last few dry patches left on my clothes. When I get back home from these kinds of shoots I make sure to get everything drying immediately before water causes any damage in the lens and camera mechanisms. Many of you would probably call me crazy for exposing myself and the equipment to these extremely wet conditions. But I have to say I love it as this is where I feel the most alive and this is where the landscapes I make get their stories from.
I hiked back to the car and drove home to develop the plates in the darkroom. I used the standard developer Kodak HC-110 and was very pleased with how the first negative turned out. Despite the very long exposure you can still see details in the water and layers of rocks inside the canyon. The only thing I would improve is the point of focus. You can see that most of the details are in the foreground even though I focused on the big rock on the left. Camera has obviously shifted a bit when I inserted my dry plate film holder…
With the second plate I was in for a surprise. As soon as the image started appearing I was like where the hell did I get this shot from. When it developed further I realised I must have loaded an already exposed plate by mistake. I am still experimenting with reverse developing to positive and there were some plates waiting to be developed in the same box as the unexposed ones. They had a marking on them but I have obviously missed it so together with the canyon I also got an image of my container darkroom. I had to pull out the plate from the developer after around a minute to get a usable image and I thought to myself what a moron. When I reversed the shot to positive this accidental double exposure was not that bad after all. It represents me in a way with nature on the horizontal and container darkroom on the vertical plane.
This was for sure one of the wettest moments I experienced on the field but I had lots of fun. If you would like to see me getting soaking wet, shooting and developing I invite you to watch the VIDEO as well 🙂