Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Shelagh’s Head, Wishing Arch, Elephant Rock and Lion’s Paw

Around the coast from Portstewart and Portrush (just past Curran Head but before Dunluce Castle) we have an area known as the White Rocks.  A long sandy beach with a backdrop of Limestone cliffs which have been eroded over the years into a variety of shapes - some of which have been rather esoterically named as in the title of this post.

Now I'm not a great one for the classic landscape photograph of the North Antrim coast (as beautiful as it is), the like of which appear in their hundreds in coffee shops all around here, but sometimes your camera ends up pointing in a particular direction and before you know it your finger has twitched, the shutter has been opened for a fraction of a second, those silver halide crystals on the emulsion coated side of your film have begun to effect a chemical change and an image (albeit invisible) has been formed.  The good news is that after being steeped in some chemical solution ("developer") the resulting image is made visible and then made permanent and light-resistant by another chemical bath ("fixer").   If all goes well you might at this stage have a negative, from which, after washing and drying, you can make a print, as indeed I try to do from time to time.  Most times my negatives end up acquiring lots of dust and scratches along the way - which takes particular skill, I might add, in spite of my best intentions.

So on a good day I might take my negative into the room which has bin bags taped over the window and a curtain over the door, place it carefully in my 1970-something enlarger and shine a light through it onto a sheet of paper coated in some chemical or other.  This results in the image transferring itself (through the magic of light and chemistry) from the negative onto the paper - although it is not visible to us humans at this stage.  The paper is then washed in a developer solution which converts this image into something visible (more silver magic), and this can be made 'permanent' through a final fix, which converts all non-image silver into a soluble form that can be washed away.  And there you have it: the Silver Print...and what a thing of beauty is sometimes is.

Occasionally I might decide to steep the final (wet) print into a toning solution (e.g., tea, selenium, sepia) which will effect a chemical change on the silver image.  This might deepen the blacks and even cause a noticeable colour shift in the image, as well as making the image more permanent (if it doesn't end up in the bin, that is).

Blimey - I didn't expect all that, did you?!

And here we are...Ta-da! The masterpiece :)  FP4 on Fotospeed RCVC Oyster paper, Warmtone developer anf Selenium toned.  Was it worth it?  You tell me.

White Rocks, Portrush

PS Normal service will be resumed tomorrow, when I 'do' Dunluce Castle.

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