Although today seems to be the start of a warmer period, the last month has been cold like a proper winter. However I didn’t get as much winter-fun as I had liked, as I was one of the many people caught by the flu epidemic. So I spend most of my time during the past weeks under a blanket on my couch, following twitter where lots of people posted beautiful pictures of the snow-covered countryside. But there was one day where I was lucky. Almost two weeks ago I thought I was well enough for a photo expedition, and I was already considering a trip to the east of the Netherlands where there was some snow, when I woke up to find my backyard completely white (well, almost). I loaded the M2 with Ektar and the Minolta Riva Panorama with Portra 400 and headed outside.
I know snow can be rather tricky to expose, but I recently bought a light meter to get more consistent exposure, so that came in handy. For most of the shots I used the incident meter to avoid being tricked by reflecting snow. I think it worked reasonably well, the negatives seem ok, or overexposed rather than under if any. The Riva Panorama has an internal light meter, but those negatives seemed pretty ok too, although a bit lighter (darker images). I had to work a bit harder in post to get those colors right, but that could be due to some development issues, more on that later.
It was still quite early, and there was too much water in the air for the sun to penetrate, so the result is a strangely monochrome landscape with white land and white skies. There was a sort of fog, but not the traditional kind where you have a low layer of clouds. It was merely a thin layer all over, from ground to sky, with dense air, which made it difficult to focus, and resulted in some woolly images. Very unlike the winter sharpness you can get on a sunny dry cold day. At times I thought I could almost see the sun coming through, but it wasn’t strong enough. I did see some slight color variations in the sky though, due to the changing light close to the sun.
I developed both rolls at home. Development of the roll of Ektar which I shot with my M2 was fine, but the results are not as sharp as I am used to. I am very inclined to blame the foggy conditions, as mentioned before. Subjects close to the camera do seem sharper, so that backs up that theory.
The development of the roll of Portra however didn’t go so smoothly. Like I mentioned in the beginning, I have been under the influence of the flu, leading to a bit of a fuzzy head. However last Thursday I thought I was well enough to develop this roll. Turns out you need a fresh mind with the ability to focus, because although it is not so difficult, it is easy to make mistakes. Three things went wrong:
- I chose the wrong timer app. I have one for developing black and white, and one for colour. The process is slightly different, which I didn’t notice when I programmed the timer, so I missed the last step and had to improvise on that. Luckily the last step (stabilising) is not that critical with time, so I guess this was easy to fix.
- The development time was set to 3’30”, but for some reason I started to pour out the developer just before the 3 minute mark. Then when I didn’t hear the alarm sound from the timer I realised something was wrong, and I poured the developer back in. Of course I had now missed about 20 seconds or so, so I had to compensate that with a bit of guesswork. And I think it is safe to say that the developer had dropped a bit in temperature too.
- After the blix, when you are supposed to wash the film, I poured in the stabilizer (even though my timer said: Wash). Again, I realised my mistake after a couple of seconds, so I removed the stabilizer and did the washing followed by the stabilizer.
After all those mistakes I didn’t know what to expect really, but luckily the roll was not completely lost. There is a definite colour cast that the automatic setting on the scanner doesn’t remove, so I had to do a bit more post processing on these images. You can also see (for example in the photo above) that there is a more blue colour cast on the sides, but I blame that on the cheaper and wider lens of the Riva Panorama compared to the Leica lens I use on the M2. Frankly, I don’t mind the blue-ish vignetting, it gives some depth and a bit of extra colour.
Speaking about vignetting and blue color-cast, the Summilux on the M2 is not free of vignetting (it is a lens from about 1970, so no big surprise here), and Ektar also gets a more blue color in those underexposed areas. It is very obvious in the images that were shot wide open, such as the one below.
I made these photos close to home, almost in my backyard, and on this route that I walk regularly is this house for which I always have a sweet spot. I can never resist taking photos of it when I walk by, and this time with the snow it seemed even more idyllic. I think at some point I should make some prints and bring them to the owners, right? Not sure if they would appreciate that, or if they would take me for a stalker…
Just some trees:
Finally, my favourite from this series. Although development was faulted, and it was made with the cheaper camera, I really like this photo with the ducks. Somehow the lines seem to work. It is not the sharpest images I ever made, but apart from that it has a lot going for it:
Thanks for reading!