Bisti Badlands, 1998. Near Farmington,
This image is an excellent example of the improvements
that effective masking can make on certain images. The original
negative was exposed with a yellow filter, in order to keep the
sky from going too light. Development of the negative was normal
in HC-110 developer. The film was Tri-X. In retrospect, I should
have given the negative normal minus one development accompanied
by more exposure, but even then I would have probably utilized
masks to achieve the desired result. After considerable printing
effort, the prints I attempted (without masks) show much too harsh
of a tonal progression from the middle values to the shadow values.
All the broad shadows were very, very dark, dismal and lifeless.
A flatter print did not help, as the overall effect became very
drab with flat, gray shadows. I decided to use a heavy contrast
reduction mask (sandwiched with the original negative) to make
the initial exposure on the paper, followed by an exposure with
a SCIM mask (pin-registered). The resulting effect is vastly improved!
The contrast reduction mask raised the broad dark shadows substantially
(probably two full values) allowing detail to show. The second
exposure, with the SCIM mask, enhanced the deep black and near-black
accents within the broad shadows allowing the shadows to achieve
an open, luminous and lively tactile quality. The difference between
the unmasked print and the masked fine print is extreme yet seamless.
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