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The New Tradition is a book in production outlining Peter Eastway's approach to landscape photography. It begins with his earlier work in the darkroom and follows his transition into Photoshop and digital techniques. His argument? That with Photoshop we have a new tradition in landscape photography. While lovers and stalwarts of the Ansel Adams approach should never change, in time a new generation will look back on photographers at the turn of the century and their approach to landscape photography. Hopefully it will share a similar acknowledgement for being creative and inspirational, long after the debate about 'Is it real' is forgotten.

Prague

Czech Republic, 1997
One of the beauties of working in the darkroom, something I struggle with in the digital realm, was the simplicity with which you could create beautiful, rich, dark, brooding BLACKS.


I think this is what made a black and white darkroom print so special. Certainly it's what inkjet printer manufacturers have been chasing for the past decade. And they have achieved it.


What I struggle with these days is setting the black in Photoshop. I feel that I want to retain detail, no matter how slight, throughout the entire image. And of course, with modern technology, this is quite possible with a little attention and skill.


In comparison, it was difficult to keep the blacks on Zones 2 and 3 with barely perceptible detail. It was much easier to burn the hell out of the print and create those rich blacks. Beside, people loved looking at blacks. It was a crowd pleaser all round.


One of the other techniques I enjoyed exploring was ramping up the contrast on the print and increasing the graininess. This print was made using Grade 5 filtration, which more or less says good-bye to all the tones between white and black, plus increases the appearance of the emulsion's grain structure. Again, a big crowd pleaser and a lot of fun to orchestrate.


The final touch was a little local bleaching and toning. A drop or two of potassium ferricyanide on the end of a small paint brush allowed me to lighten up the two windows, then after a really good wash, a little copper toner on a different brush (never mix your brushes) added in the colour.
In comparison to computer retouching, there is something wonderfully ‘fresh' about the imperfections of the hand-made technique.

Roussanou Monastery

Meteora, Greece, 1997

When I first saw these monasteries. perched atop these amazing rounded mountains, I wondered how far I would have to walk to photograph them.
I researched the guide books and purchased maps, but I couldn't find any with a useful scale. Were they one kilometre away from the nearest town or fifty? Were there paths or roads? Would I have to camp out to get the early morning light?


I needn't have worried. There was a 21 kilometre paved road from Kalambaka, the nearby town, that took the tourist buses on a circuit of half a dozen monasteries!

I drove that road many times in the three days we stayed in Kalambaka, trying hard to capture the mood and atmosphere. It really was a special place, sitting atop one domed monolith, looking across to another.

I printed the image originally in the darkroom, then repeated the exercise digitally from a scan, adding in a little colour to the sky. In both images, Roussanou Monastery was highlighted by bleaching or lightening it.

It is easily seen, but look more closely and you'll find three more monasteries tucked away.

Another view of the monastery from below.

The dome shaped rocks of Meteora

 

Castelnuovo

Tuscany, Italy, 1994

Doug Spowart's black and white darkroom work is second to none. I can remember looking at a display of his work at a photography trade show in the early 1990s and being incredibly impressed. The prints had a wonderful depth and clarity, party due to the Leica optics, but without for a moment taking away from his skill in printing and interpreting the negative. Doug was - and still is - the complete photographer and one whose work I greatly admire.


I came away from that trade show with the resolve to master black and white printing. Certainly over the next couple of years I improved my skills, even moving into large format work in the quest for a better quality negative and starting point.


Then I received a book in the mail for review: Creative Elements - Landscape Photography Darkroom Technique by Eddie Ephraums. In addition to producing incredible print quality, Eddie opened my eyes as to what was possible in the darkroom. Instead of being restricted to dodging and burning in, I was shown toning and bleaching techniques I had never seen before. Maybe that's not quite correct - I was familiar with the techniques, but I had never seen them used this way.


This print of Castelnuovo was inspired by Eddie's book. It earned a Gold Award at the 1995 AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards.
Taken on an overcast afternoon in light drizzle, I made the print relatively dark and sombre. Then, after fixing and washing, I used a solution of Farmers Reducer (a bleach) with a small paint brush to lighten up each of the buildings, one by one. Farmers Reducer was a common technique, but care had to be taken not to overdo it or you'd produce a colouration in the print. In this situation, the colouration produced was exactly what I was after.


It took me over an hour to produce the effect, so only two prints were ever made. To finish, the print was selenium toned which darkened the blacks and created a very rich tonal range.

 

Another view of Castelnuova

Epupa Falls

Namibia, 1995

Photography is as much about the experience as the photograph. Many images have ‘baggage' attached to them that sometimes inflates the success of the image.


The baggage attached to this image is a little different. It brings back fond memories of a practical joke, albeit childish.


Epupa Falls is on the Angolan border of Namibia and indeed this tree might be in Angola. It is - or was - an amazing place where some 17 small waterfalls tipped over the edge, cascading through deep clefts in a dry land. It was absolutely beautiful and photographing it in a meaningful way was very difficult.


One of the challenges was the bright light above the clefts and the deep shadows within. The contrast was too great for film to capture detail in both areas at the one time and, this being pre-digital, the thought of two exposures hadn't occurred to me.


The solution was to wait for the sun to set. I was standing there with fellow photographer John Bazzano, discussing nothing in particular, whiling away the time. Our tripods were set at the ready, cameras poised, waiting for just the right time.


John excused himself as nature called, and he politely walked a discreet distance away. Now I'm not quite sure what possessed me, but I walked over to his camera which was fitted with a fine zoom lens, checked the angle he had set so I could return the camera to this position afterwards, released the tripod head and swung the camera towards John.


The zoom worked remarkably well and I captured him from a three-quarter rear view, mid-stream.


I returned the camera to its correct position and zoom setting and nonchalantly wandered back to my own camera. John returned and appeared none the wiser.


I said nothing more and promptly forgot the incident.


Our trip continued for another couple of weeks and a couple of months passed. Back in Sydney, I'm sitting in my office at the magazine when I receive a call. It's John.


"Hello, Peter", he began, his words very carefully annunciated. "How are you?"


"Fine", I replied.


"I've been very busy", continued John, "so I asked my new lady friend if she would like to help me edit my photos from our African trip. There was one photograph taken at Epupa Falls she wondered if you could provide an explanation for..."


Now I like John a lot, but I've never been brave enough to go on another trip with him.

 A colour view of the cascade from a lower angle.

A nearby baoabab tree.

 

 

 

 

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La Sacre di San Michele

Northern Italy

The abbey of La Sacre di San Michele perches on an island of land, a promintory overlooking a flat-bottomed valley through which a road and train track wind their way into Switzerland.


We detoured up a convoluted road, hugging the side of a steep hill, and arrived just below the abbey in the late afternoon. In addition to the imposing walls and flying buttresses at the top, we were greeted by a symphony of Gregorian chants.


We walked into the abbey, stepping over ancient stone flagging, up a grand stairway and through a series of arches and tunnels, rising rapidly. With each step, the chanting grew stronger and deeper. The sound was simply amazing and at every turn, we expected to see a choir of hundreds of hooded monks, reverently singing in harmony.


Higher and higher we climbed until the arches and hallways arrived at an open air courtyard onto which the doors of the abbey itself opened. But there was no choir. Nor any monks.


Tucked in the corner was a $50 boom-box, its CD set to loop continuously. After all, it was winter and what monks with any sense would stand outdoors in the cold, chanting for hours on end...


Somewhat deflated, I looked for a photograph that would help recreate the atmosphere and mood of this 1000-year old structure. As is often the case, the best views are not from within the structure itself, but from a distance, so we retraced our steps and followed the winding road a little further up the hill. It ended in a small paddock, freshly ploughed and soft enough to sink into up to your boot-straps - or in my case my shoelaces.


I found a position that looked over the top of an orchard of leafless fruit trees and watched the sunset. Low cloud meant the abbey didn't light up as I hoped, but this was easily corrected in the darkroom. After printing, fixing and washing the print, a solution of copper toner was applied to the abbey using a fine brush.


Only three prints were made, two of which now hang in private homes. When I visit one of them, I marvel at how the copper toning has grown over the years, changing from the soft red you see here to a rich, golden yellow, almost disguising the silver image below. I think of it as a photo in motion.

 

The same angle photographed in colour.

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