5×7 Deadorff Camera 210mm Computar lens FP 4 processed Pyrocat HD minimally agitated
The 2nd weekend in February of 2016 was forecast to have well below zero record breaking cold temperatures. All week long I was planning to go to my favorite creek in search of Ice Patterns & Abstracts. The Mattabassett Creek is close to my home where the current moves swiftly and the shapes of the trees that reflect in the water or ice have a character all their own. I stopped by the creek on my way home from work Friday night to find the ice showing near perfect conditions. The ice was nearly clear because of the flash freezing due to quickly declining temperatures, there was still some running water that contained the reflection of trees from across the creek, exactly what I’d hoped for. What happened the next morning at the creek couldn’t have been anticipated in a million years !!
The image you see below was made in the winter of 2015 and gave birth to what I hoped could happen again in 2016. I was at the creek with two good friends, who were also shooting Large Format film in the 2015 winter. The ice pattern here happened so quickly I had little time to setup the large 7″x17″ camera and adjust the camera angle but recognized the opportunity of the reflection to be completely surrounded by thin, almost clear ice, providing a perfect vignette to frame the reflecting dark trees. I was, however, never really excited about the static position of the reflecting tress. In a perfect world the reflections would have a diagonal component to add to the composition. One of the simple rules of composition is diagonals create drama and I hoped that would present itself on February 13, 2016.
I would soon find out if the creek had completely frozen over during the night, which I did not want; however, it was out of my control. All the gear was ready to go the night before, including hand warmers. I was up long before dawn anticipating a sunrise of some time before 7 a.m. I had seven layers of tech shirts and fleece clothing on since I was determined to stay out for several hours to get some abstract ice images to add to my Reflections Series. I hiked downstream a bit because the current seemed to move more swiftly in that location as I recalled from last year and could likely lead to the small pockets of water surrounded by ice.
The next morning the creek had, in fact, frozen over; however, I was determined to make a photograph. That image is seen below. I looked to find a balance of diagonal tree reflections while also taking into account the angle of the rising sun and how it would impact the composition. It’s a nice image and because of the minimal agitation technique of developing film that I use, you get a sense of how the ice actually would feel if one had the opportunity to see the final Silver print.
With the big camera still set up in place, I heard a loud snap and crash upstream and looked towards the sound to see that a large branch had fallen into the middle of the creek and had cracked the ice surface. As water began creeping ever so slowly downstream towards me, I quickly realized that the potential for the black water running over the frozen ice could easily create the added contrast that a completely frozen surface in front of me lacked. I patiently waited for the water to run into my composition and ultimately made the exposure you see below. The image is interesting and certainly not possible for a Large Format photographer to capture if the camera was not already set up and in place. Realistically, what are the chances of a large enough branch falling in the center of the creek and allowing only a narrow band of water to flow almost directly into the center of my composition !! It’s a nice image and does provide interest to the story, but it is not the stand- alone, once-in-a-lifetime image I am always looking for.
After making this 7″ X 17″ image, I looked back upstream and could see the water spreading across the ice and quickly thought I needed to set up the smaller 5″ X 7″ camera that was not so panoramic in it’s perspective. One of the few times I quickly took the 7 X 17 camera off the tripod and just set it down on the snow and quickly set up the 5 X 7 Deardorff camera. Moving quickly, I composed and measured the tonalities and made the exposure you see here and the lead image to this month’s Story Behind Every Photograph. At the point in time I made this exposure, the ice was breaking apart quickly and different shapes and relationships were forming but I was only able to make this one image before all the interest in the ice and surface water vanished. There are so many things happening in this image that excite me – the angle of the reflecting trees on the very top provides interest, the line of snow at the top of the frame provides another layer of tonality that subliminally conveys depth. The open areas of water create reflections of the trees at different angles that were immediately above the frozen surface. The bottom of the image where there is differing tonalities on opposing sides adds more interest and does force the focus of the image towards the drama created by the random pockets of water intertwined with thin layers of ice, very interesting to me. Lastly, the final print is Split-Toned, where the highlights are bleached and redeveloped to a noticeable warmth interspersed with the cooler color of the mid-tones and shadows to create a third dimension all its own, which really has to be seen first-hand to appreciate what the technique does for the final Silver Gelatin print !!
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