A Trip of Learning (Part II)

Wednesday, September 30

For the previous 3 days, I have been subjecting my feet to a mild degree of torture. It was quite fun, and I will return to the same locations in early November. However, after three solid days of a beating, I decided to take it easy and move on to a different location. I decided to make the drive to Toroweap. For those who are unfamiliar with the area, Toroweap is an overlook over the Colorado River that is located within Grand Canyon National Park.  There is no entrance fee collected because the area is located 61 miles from the highway, and the road there is an unimproved dirt and gravel road. The last 5 miles or so get quite rough, and the last 2 miles in particular involve driving over rocky sandstone slickrock.  I got there around 2PM, and decided to go ahead and setup my camera.

View cameras are next to impossible to setup in the pre-sunrise light. The ground glass is too dark to be critical about focus, lens movements, or composition.  Plus, there is a time crunch situation of needing to have the camera setup before the light is best. As a result, I like to setup my camera the day before, then leave it there overnight so everything is ready to go in the morning.

I had visited Toroweap before, so I had a shot in mind that I wanted to take.  I was initially concerned that my lens might be too long for the shot I wanted, but it ended up being very ideal. I used my 450mm nikkor on my Ebony 8×10 camera.

I setup camp, then made dinner and got settled in for the evening. An hour before sunrise, I made the drive to the overlook area, and started my pre-flight checks to make sure all my settings were accurate. At that point, it was just a matter of waiting for the light, metering the scene, and taking the shot.  In the moments after sunrise, I took 2 shots, then started packing up. I had accomplished my mission, and was ready to head to my next location.

I was about 30 miles away from Toroweap (half way back to the highway) when I had a nagging suspicion that something was wrong. I slammed on the breaks as I realized what it was.  I opened the reach hatch and retrieved my light meter.  It was set to ISO 100.

For the first half of the trip, I was using Velvia 100 because of its resistance to reciprocity failure with exposures faster than 2 minutes. However, I had two filmholders full of Velvia 50 that I was reserving for Toroweap because it would be brighter, and the reciprocity failure was not as much of an issue.  It was Velvia 50 that I had shot at Toroweap, some 30 miles behind me.

I now know how I made this mistake. When I picked up my light meter, it was for some reason set to ISO 125. Rather than setting it to 50, I set it to 100.  I had taken my photos one stop underexposed (half the necessary amount of light). I was not sure of how far I could push process the Velvia 50.

As I made it back to the highway, I was now within cell range. I used my iphone to access the data sheets for Velvia 50, and found that I could indeed push process the film to 100.  In all likelihood, the trip was not in vain.  However, I decided that a return trip would be necessary. I had one sheet of Velvia 50 left, and I had it reserved for my return trip to Toroweap in the next few days.

2 Responses to “A Trip of Learning (Part II)”

  1. David Patterson Says:

    OK… how long does it take for that film to get processed and presented here? I have been thoroughly enjoying the narrative about your latest adventures, and if your intent was to heighten the level of expectation around seeing the images you have captured… mission accomplished 🙂

    Seriously though… can’t wait to see your work from this trip, and thanks again for sharing the details. It is a lot of fun to “follow along” with your travels and even slightly vicariously experience what you are experiencing.

    • Ben Horne Says:

      Thanks for the comment David. I have received some of the images back, and others are being processed now. I am happy with how some of them turned out, but I wouldn’t say any of them are as “perfect” as I would like. I’ll post some in the coming days. I do plan on re-shooting many of the images though. I am still quite new to the 8×10 camera and the lenses I’m working with, so it is difficult to predict every issue that arises. My exposures have been very accurate, which is a small feat when using slide film on large format. I have to calculate the bellows extension factor and reciprocity failure factors. After that, it is a matter of finding a base exposure, then spot metering the scene and seeing where all the values fall. I’m starting to get quite comfortable with the setup, which is good.

      I was not able to get the shot I wanted at Subway because of the reflection on the water. A polarizer will solve that issue when I return there in November. Now I know the best time of day to visit that location, as well as more of what to expect. I didn’t walk away with the shot I wanted, but I walked away with information. I find that to be very important.

      In the Narrows, I nailed the exposure, and had a good composition. However, I was not able to get the image to be tack sharp at the top because of the tilt of the lens. Typically, I stop down the lens to see the Depth of Field preview. However, it is so dark in the canyon that I could hardly see the image on the ground glass even wide open. I know exactly how to shoot that image on my return trip though.

      I’m still waiting on two more images from Toroweap. I think I might get some usable shots from there. It is quite high contrast, but I think I have enough tonality on the transparency to tweak the tones exactly as I need them from a drum scan. If I get one good shot out of this trip, I will be very happy. This is really why I call this a learning trip. Hopefully the next trip will be more of a shooting trip.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: