Trees and Rhododendron

Over the years, I have walked through this local wood about 500 times with Badger, my dog.

Here is the effect of toning a picture of this wood …

Royden Woods, HP5 developed in PMK and printer at grade 2, no dodging and burning. Scanned from print.

Each time I am struck by the short horizontal broken branches on the Scots Pines. I have taken many pictures, but the light has always been a problem, throwing up difficult-to-tame contrasts.

A few days ago, I finally got my chance: a misty day but with some sun. The previous days had seen some frost, so the Rhododendron leaves were all pointing down reflecting the light towards me.

I had my Mamiya-Six Automat with me with HP5 loaded. I didn’t have a spot meter, just a normal old Weston. I rated the film at 250 ISO and took a general reading angling the meter towards the Rhodies. I figured that I would need to open the lens up by 2-3 stops from the meter reading to give ample exposure to the mist. At f 5.6 that gave me a shutter time of 1/25th of a second. Not an ideal aperture and fairly slow for hand-held, but the Mamiya is a range-finder, so it was manageable. In any case, without a tripod I had few options. I had already decided that I would need to use a tolerant and compensating film developer.

Of course, what the camera sees is not what we see. I am not one for visualising a scene in the field. I have always found that this doesn’t come easily to me. My visualisation takes place in the darkroom and what I wanted to achieve was some separation of the tree trunks from the foliage and to bring out the Rhododendron leaves.

To achieve this I went down the split grade printing route, making sure to dodge grade 00 in the Rhododendon area and the sky through the trees and then burning grade 00 in the edges of the picture, particularly the sky. I also locally bleached the area in the foreground.

I burned at grade 5 those small broken branches and the right-hand side of the print.

I then split-toned the print in Sepia and Selenium to provide the separation I was looking for. I didn’t want a highly ‘sepia-ed’ look so I bleached the print for 5 seconds only and put it into the sepia bath for just 10 seconds. I then washed and Selenium toned (1:9) for 4 minutes. I then re-fixed.

The result:

Mamiya-Six Automat, F5.6/1/25 sec; Developed in PMK at 21C for 12 minutes, split grade printed on Ilford Portfolio RC pearl paper, split-toned in sepia and selenium; locally bleached. Scanned from print, no adjustments


  1. Reply
    Frédérique Gerbaud Dec 31, 2021

    The result is beautiful.
    The misty light seems to bring to life the various motifs, with nice but not too sharp contrasts of light and shadow on the foliage of the rhododendrons and on the branches of the pine trees. A kind of mystery pervades the image.

    • Reply
      Sidewayseye Dec 31, 2021

      Thank you Frédérique. Very kind.

  2. Reply
    Bill Barnes Jan 25, 2022

    Really delightful, and so interesting to see the differences between the two prints. Inspirational.

    • Reply
      Sidewayseye Jan 25, 2022

      Glad you like it Bill. Best regards

  3. Reply
    Russell Young Sep 2, 2022

    Truly masterful printing. A textbook lesson in “what is possible”.
    If I could have only one non-battery operated 6×6, it would definitely be the Mamiya Six Automat! I often tramp through the forest on my farm with it firmly affixed to a Gitzo monpod/walking staff. Light, compact, full of features, what is not to like?

    • Reply
      Sidewayseye Sep 3, 2022

      Hi Russ. Yes I love the Mamiya Six Automat. Mine has developed a problem which is not surprising given its age. When winding on rom frame to frame, sometimes the mechanism doesn’t stop at the next frame. If you are not alive to this, then you wind through your whole film, which happened to me the first time the problem occurred.

      I find that I can break this issue by half folding the lens back into its closed state. I suspect the camera has some ‘gunk’ in the mechanism, so I will need to take the top and bottom plates off and have a look. I’m hoping there isn’t a spring bomb awaiting me when I do open the plates.

      Best regards,

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