Fine Art Photography
Large Format (4x5) and 35mm Film

The Cowee Mountains Incident

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. Such was the case the last time that I went to Cowee Mountains Overlook in October 2015. This was a significant trip as it was the first trip my family had taken since welcoming our son George! This was my first opportunity to do large format landscape work since he was born and I was very excited about that. We located ourselves close to a lot of scenic spots in Western North Carolina and I subscribed to SkyFire as well and that service was predicting that the first night of our trip was going to be a good night to go up on the Parkway and watch the sun set!

I vividly remember the drive up the mountain — the color in the mountains was spectacular at the higher elevations and I almost thought to stop and shoot that color with the evening light. That said, Cowee Mountains Overlook was calling me. It looks almost due west and has a lot of layers of mountains, making it a popular overlook with photographers and anyone wanting to enjoy the beauty of the area.

When I got to the overlook, I was met by the DSLR army. It almost never fails that when I go to Cowee, there are a number of other photographers there, all with their digital cameras ready to take hundreds of frames of the sun as it goes down. As a large format analogue photographer, arriving at this scene is one that makes you wonder what will happen next (you certainly aren’t going to go unnoticed and something will happen).

When you pull out large format gear, a lot of people get really interested and want to talk. After all, it’s not every day that you see someone with one of these big cameras and a dark cloth. I very much understand their curiosity — I’m the one who is curious enough to be using the camera after all! That said, the time when you are setting up to photograph changing light is not the best time to be having a conversation about much of anything.

I had a few conversations with people around the fact that I had a big camera while I set up and then made this image on Kodak Ektar 100:

What happened next was unexpected and quickly changed my evening for the worse. I went to adjust my location and composition and did not have my tripod secured and then my camera took a tumble! Thankfully, it didn’t go very far. Unfortunately, a small stick went right through the bellows, rendering the Crown Graphic unable to take any more pictures that evening!

I wish I could tell you that the other photographers were supportive and helpful and helped get me out of the situation, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I heard “You should get a better tripod” and “Can you even fix a camera that old?” Those were actually some of the more helpful comments. The reality was that I put the tripod in the wrong place and even had the tripod been rated for more weight, I’m not sure that would have helped.

To salvage the evening, I thankfully had my Leica R3 ready to go and loaded with Fuji Velvia 50. As such, I was still able to make the most of my time at the overlook.

I drove back to my accommodation in a very somber mood thinking that I had clearly killed my camera after only taking 1 sheet of film for the whole trip. I had trouble sleeping that night because I was very disappointed by this turn of events and the less than helpful responses I received from the other photographers.

As I lay there trying to sleep, I realized that I had gaffer’s tape on the back of my Leica R3s to cover the film window and that I could probably use the gaffer’s tape to seal the holes in the bellows! With this realization in mind, I went straight to work. I patched the holes in the bellows and then in a dark room put a light in the bellows to ensure that no light escaped. I had fixed the camera — and with the gaffer’s tape that I already had! To this day, gaffer’s tape comes with me on photography trips. (As a side note, I don’t think gaffer’s tape fixes Canon’s ERR 99 and other such computer malfunctions….)

After fixing the camera, I was able to get to sleep and enjoyed the use of my camera for the rest of the trip!

Here are my favorite images from the Leica R3 from that evening:

Ferrania P30 and Perceptol

I’d like to share my experiences developing P30 from Film Ferrania in Ilford’s Perceptol developer. I attempted to post this information to their developer’s forum, but my post was flagged spam and nobody over there seems to be monitoring the spam queue and as such, my post never made it.

So here you go internet 🙂 Some of the names and times won’t make sense as this was intended to be a forum post, but ultimately, I think this should be good data for anyone working with Ferrania P30 and Ilford Perceptol.

I’ve worked on figuring out the numbers for Perceptol 1:3 and wanted to share my methodology for getting to these numbers and my first results. Any time that I’m working with a b/w film that doesn’t have information on the Massive Dev Chart, I tend to look at the chart to see what’s similar. In the case of P30, Ferrania has given us the chart and the numbers on that chart match relatively closely to Rollei Retro Pan 80S on the Massive Dev chart for a handful of developers. Given that, the numbers for Rollei Retro Pan 80S are likely close and for Perceptol 1:3, the number is 18 minutes at 20C.

Not too long ago, Ludi gave us a Perceptol Stock number of 9 minutes and Ludi’s results look quite nice. I then looked on the Massive Dev chart to get a better understanding of the relationship of Perceptol stock to Perceptol 1:1 to Perceptol 1:3 as it behaves across a wide variety of films. In general, the ratio between stock and 1:1 falls between 1.16 and 1.85, but usually around 1.44. The ratio between 1:1 and 1:3 falls between 1.26 and 1.58, but usually around 1.4 as well.

Toni Skokovic gave us a number for Perceptol 1:1 of 20 minutes, but if we accept Ludi’s 9 as the right time for stock, then Toni’s 1:1 number has a ratio of 2.22, which is generally higher than the range I was finding across a variety of films on Massive Dev. At this time, I think Toni’s number for 1:1 may be a little long, but more testing is definitely needed to confirm that.

Looking further at the chart, I found Ilford Pan 100 shot at ISO 50 seems to be a good match ratio-wise in that for stock it’s 8 minutes, 1:1 it’s 12 minutes, and 1:3 it’s 16 minutes. The ratios here are 1.5 and 1.3333. If we take Ludi’s 9 and multiply by the ratios, we get 9 minutes for stock, 13.5 minutes for 1:1, and 18 minutes for 1:3 (which matches my original guess based on Rollei Retro Pan 80S) All at 20C.

Given the above, I did the following:

Tank -> Paterson 3 reel
Developer-> Perceptol 1:3 (18 minutes at 20C formula, measured temp of 20.1C for an actual time of 17:51)
Agitation-> Continuous first minute, 10 seconds once every minute afterwards.
Stop Bath-> Ilford Wash Method
Fix->Ilford Rapid Fixer 1+4 for 5 minutes
Wash->Ilford Method for 7 minutes
Rinse->Kodak Photo-Flo added to tank and continue with the Ilford Method for the remaining 3 minutes.
Scanned->Epson V700 at 3200dpi with Silverfast

Results from Minolta CLE, Minolta Rokkor 40mm f/2 and Zeiss Biogon 28mm f/2.8 — All shot at ISO 80.

Welcome to the new!

I hope you are enjoying the redesigned as much as I have enjoyed putting it together! My goal in 2018 is to use the blog section of the site more than in past years. In this blog, I want to document any unique films that I use, development recipes that I find interesting and other unique aspects of shooting analogue photographs in 2018. Having shot only analogue since 2013, I’ve definitely got the hang of things and am looking forward to sharing my knowledge where I can.

That said, I still have a ton to learn myself and am very interested in hearing from you if you have thoughts or comments on what I have to say.

So here’s to 2018 and the newly redesigned!

About Me

About me

I'm Karl Abbott and this is my blog. I'll share images, the story behind them, and any unique technical details about how I achieved my results.