From the mountains to the lounge room, via Collingwood.

I just hung up a rather pleasing print on the dining room wall, and it struck me that there was a tale to tell about it, that was actually well documented for once!
The photo in question was made in July this year, and shows a grand view of the Bernese Alps, from the Piz Gloria restaurant atop the Schilthorn – made famous by George Lazenby in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘. There is a photo of me actually making the picture, and a keen eye can see: I’m using a 4×5″ Large Format camera (the Wista Field Camera). There’s an orange filter on the lens (to make the sky contrast nicer), and so I must also be using black and white film (in this case, Kodak TXP 320, exposed at 200 ISO). What kind of fool drags a 12kg backpack of camera/lens/tripod madness up a 2,970 metre summit just to make a nice picture? Well, plenty – and those folks with big SLR kits and lots of lenses are probably carrying just as much weight as me. The wooden camera is prettier though – like carting a grand old piece of furniture with you on travels…
As always, I made two film exposures (to be sure, to be sure), and also made two colour negative exposures too (which I don’t always do, because the costs of processing all that colour film when I get home are prohibitive: AU$7 per sheet!)
And then, a month later, I processed the sheets on the processing robot at home, and the pictures came out well!!
Jumping back in time a bit – this time last year, ‘Lachie’ from Vanbar Photographics in Melbourne, suggested I join the ‘Melbourne Silver Mine‘ – a local group of analogue photography enthusiasts. So I duly did, and have spent the entire year inadvertently missing every activity they have undertaken, due to work and general busy-ness. Crikey. So, when the opportunity came about to submit a print for their annual analogue group exhibition, I was determined not to miss it, and duly sent off my forms.
Like most artists, I embrace procrastination and ‘leaving important things to the last minute’, and so it was that I didn’t really do much further about this ’till a fortnight prior to ‘hanging day’.
At this point we return to the aforementioned photograph of the Bernese Alps. I took the negative into the darkroom and made an 8×10′ test print on RC paper. It turns out that the picture looked heaps more ‘epic’ as a panoramic crop (rather than the full 4:5 frame), so I moreorless printed it like that, and stared at it for a bit. Testing the idea with some aesthetically savvy chums, I decided to print the final picture as large as I could, but at a natural panorama of 16:9 (same as modern telly!) so the picture would look ‘right’ to the eye. And as the largest paper my tank will fit is 16×12″ – I only had to waste 3″ from a single sheet.

The other challenge was to use fibre paper instead of RC (resin coated) paper. I use RC paper all the time, but fibre paper has that je ne sais quoi of tone and texture, and is generally a heavier weight of paper and to me somehow more imposing as a PRINT. Trouble is – you have to wash the paper for aages, and when dry, it bends like a crazy thing.
In the darkroom, I made 3 fibre prints to arrive at the exhibition print – the first was perfect, and the second was on a different type of paper, which was older stock and printed a stop too light. The third was also perfect, but I didn’t like the paper so much (a warm tone) – so the first print was destined to be ‘the one’!
I should add – it’s super rare for me to get a ‘perfect’ print – usually there’s extra stuff I could do, or there’s a spec of dust no-one can see but me, or the composition is not as awesome as my mind desperately wants it to be. But this time… success! And so, with some trepidation, I washed the print for an extremely long time, hung it up to dry, and then flattened it (a bit) in a large dry mount press (I just happened to have nearby). Still a bit curly, I put it under 7 years’ worth of the UK ‘Black & White Photography’ magazines… and that seemed to work a treat!
Meanwhile, I’d rung up the friendly ‘Neo Frames‘ in Collingwood to get a framing quote – they’re great because they do everything themselves – use all archival quality stuff, and locally sourced hardwood which they paint to order. Normally they have a fortnight turnaround, but I must have sounded suitably despairing on the phone, as they agreed to have it done in less that a week (so I could pick up the frame on the morning of the hanging day)!
Taking the print there the next day, I picked out a nice thin black wood frame and they showed me how the matte would go, and I left it with them. Fingers crossed.
Fast forward one week, and I picked up the picture – framed so beautifully I really didn’t want to let it go – but then had to leave it unceremoniously on the stairs of the Collingwood Gallery for hanging later in the day! Seeya little fella…
But at the opening the next day – there it was on the wall, looking super, and the gallery was FULL of happy analogue aficionados – burbling merrily about everyone’s work. There were quite a few other darkroom prints, and at least one other Large Format work (an 8×10″!)

A fortnight later I picked up my masterpiece again and have hung it on the wall… What fun – and of course I’ll do it all over again next year!

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8 thoughts on “From the mountains to the lounge room, via Collingwood.

  1. So many people asked questions about your photo and stopped to look at the amazing details in the mountain. It was truly beautiful and I’m not surprised to read that Neo were behind the framing – they also framed my polaroids that were in the show – as they always do an wonderful job.

    Now you can enjoy your work hanging in your own home/gallery ;->

    PS – Nice to see Vanbar giving MSM a plug too

    1. That’s awesome Emma! Neo have me hook, line & sinker now – they did superb work and were suitably flattering about my picture! šŸ™‚

      Now to frame all the ‘other’ epic 4×5 prints…. um…

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