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Radeka Photography

Bisti Badlands, 1998. Near Farmington, New Mexico


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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