[Ed. Note: Our current September Print Offer ends a little more than a day from now. After the sale, our $230 prints will only be available through Carl's gallery at their regular price of $1,100. Please go here to see both pictures or to order. —MJ]
Carl Weese, Church, 8x10 platinum-palladium print
By Carl Weese
In June of 2002 I spent about a week in the mountains and valleys of western Virginia, mainly looking for pictures after a couple of publisher and gallery meetings. I spotted this wonderful old church building nearly hidden in a hollow, close by state highway 220, just south of Iron Gate, VA. This viewpoint at the top of the access drive was ideal, as was the late afternoon hazy summer sunlight. I set up my 8x10 Deardorff with a 14-inch Commercial Ektar lens. Nothing difficult about the setup—I leveled the camera so there’d be no convergence in the building, used quite a lot of front fall to get the framing from this elevated camera position, then put in some front tilt to help foreground focus. I don’t record exposures generally, but the Tri-X probably got half a second at ƒ/45. I drove down nearer the church and tried two other views with shorter lenses, but this was clearly the key picture. While I was there, a man who lived in a cabin on adjacent land arrived home from work, came over to talk, and gave me a lot of background about the United African American Baptist Church. Built in 1897, rebuilt in 1920, re-sited even more recently. It was currently out of service and threatened by planned expansion of the two-lane highway, plus the fact that the electric service was discontinued and couldn’t be hooked up again without everything being brought up to code, a daunting task. I don’t know its current status, except that it is still there—last September 6th I quickly found it on Apple Map. The shadow of the distinctive steeple was an instant giveaway.
Steep Rock Reservation is a private foundation that maintains forest, stream, and parkland on some 2,500 acres in the town of Washington in western Connecticut. Privately owned and supported, it is open to the public and used extensively by hikers, campers, paddlers, birders, and nature lovers in general. During the 1990s I spent a great deal of time around Steep Rock working entirely with large and ultra-large format cameras making pictures to be printed in platinum/palladium. I’d been to this spot in the main section of the reservation many times but never found the light exactly right, until one Spring morning in 1996, I went into the park before dawn (technically breaking some access rules) and found conditions that seemed perfect. The Shepaug River valley is steep here and pre-dawn light continues for at least half an hour after the sun has officially risen. I set up the 8x10, this time with a 165mm Super Angulon, a wide lens for the format. This let me get a sense of being right inside the forest, looking out over the river and into the morning sky. I used a little front tilt again to help foreground focus, stopped all the way down to ƒ/64. The exposure was probably a minute.
I used a pyro developer formula for both negatives. Pyro development combines a proportional stain with the silver in the negative. Since the stain is an efficient UV light blocker, the negatives have sufficient UV density range for optimal Pt/Pd printing, yet have low enough contrast in the visible light spectrum to make first rate silver prints as well. In addition, they are easy to scan with full detail and tonal range since scanners also work with the visible, not UV, spectrum.
Our sale of the two prints discussed here ends at 7:00 p.m. U.S. Central Time tomorrow, Monday, September 15th. —Mike
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