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.