The Photograph Explained: Dip Falls #3, Tasmania by John Studholme
I have a box of prints in sleeves which are the ones I am happy with. Some have been printed many times to get to the stage I am happy with. Some are favourites because of the amount of work required before I released the shutter. But there is another group that just sits there lurking and every time I go through the prints they politely cough as I pass them by. But I can’t throw them out; there is something about them… Maybe they don’t fit with any group, or are not the style I usually make – but they exist, and this is one of them.
The Dip Falls in Northern Tasmania is one of the more spectacular falls I have seen, with the water cascading down over regular basalt columns. For the photographer it gives a couple of different viewpoints and you can get quite close to the falls. My partner, Eve, was there with her camera.
From this position I made three images. For the first two images I tried swapping lenses to get in a little closer and switched from landscape to portrait format. I showed the regular columns of rock and wanted to contrast this with some movement in the water, so went with 1/15th of a second. The third image was still to come.
Going back a few years, an American photographer, Paula Chamlee, whose workshop I attended, pointed out that since you spend so much time setting up a large format camera, after making an image you may as well have a good look around from under your dark cloth to see if there are any more. Following this advice, I usually do a 360 degree turn (being careful not to trip over the tripod) while still under the darkcloth, tilting the camera up and down as well – it is surprising what you might notice now that the scene has a frame around it.
From my position I noticed that to the side of the main waterfall there was a small stream coming down, and that a fern and log helped with the composition and gave it some context. This is the image above. It was quite a bit darker in this area. I took readings of the darkest part of the rock which I placed in Zone 5 and whiter water came in at 3 stopes higher to Zone 8. With some reciprocity factored in, this required a 1 minute exposure time at f32 using a 305mm lens. This slow exposure was going to blur the water, but because of the small amount of water I thought it might work. There was some movement in one of the fern leaves but this is not too noticeable in the final image.
The print was made as a Ziatype, as are all my prints for now. I have used this method for some years as it is one of the few methods of printing that doesn’t require a darkroom – and I like the final product. I live in rented houses, which means setting up a darkroom is not always easy. The Ziatype process is a “printing out process” which requires paper to be coated with a light sensitive solution and then dried and contact printed in a printing frame in the sun or in a UV lightbox. I use the sun. The mixture of the solution can be varied for contrast and tone. With this image, no contrasting agent was required for printing, which means the negative had the required contrast range.
The choice of the 8 x 10 camera is dictated for me by the final image size, as it is contact printed. I feel 8 x 10 is a good size for viewing. The camera is a Wehman from America, made from aluminium and is one of the lighter ones available – although not the most rigid. I use a Ries tripod and head. The whole kit is lightweight and lets me walk for hours when the need arises. I carry both Ilford HP5+ and FP4+ film which is later developed in a Jobo Expert drum using Ilford ID11 developer.
I have found that my choice of gear is something that is getting perfected over time. This will hopefully allow the contemplative nature of large format photography to become a more important part of my work.