Sad Time

We did not expect our theme became bitter truth so quickly.

During her last visit to Freiburg I asked Flora whether she is interested to work in a park which was formerly a cemetery and which has many graceful old graveyards. Flora embraced this idea enthusiastically, and she told me she had asked many photographers for this – but nobody had the slightest interest. In order to approach our theme properly we chose appropriate clothing. We selected a black long skirt made from lace, and a black top to match.

Grief and death were already a while ago themes which moved me also photographically. My shoot with Flora had no specific cause, but we did not expect our theme gets so dominant with numerous tragic deaths. It is a theme which is often suppressed but which is relevant for everybody not only during a pandemy. I believe we met this theme with appropriate images, and I think they also correspond to the particular place where we made them.

For those who are technically interested

Technical information is really not the prime focus for these images, but nevertheless I want to provide some.

I took three cameras and four lenses with me for the shoot. Most images were taken with the Fujifilm GFX 50s, which I like a lot. I had the Fujinon GF 2/110 with me, which is my first choice for portrait photography with this camera. It’s focus is quick (for medium format, that is) and safe, and at open aperture separation from the background is all I need. This relates to the amount of background blur as well as its softness without harsh details – a beautiful bokeh as it is called today. However, as already mentioned for my  Shoot with Anna in the Nature und and at the Harbour Fujis products lack a fast standard lens. Background separation is therefore much more limited with other lenses. For this reason, I had the Canon EF 1.2/50 with me when I worked with Anna, but I did not use it then due to strong vignetting. Since I recognized that this is mostly caused by the sunshade, I simply took it off this time. Autofocus works well with the Viltrox adapter, and it did not fail. The aperture is always in audible action, and metadata are not always properly saved. Still, the 1.2/50 is very well useable with the GFX 50s.

From my first set of images, only the second was taken with the Fujinon 2/110. The others (marked with *) were taken with the Canon 50 mm lens – all with open aperture. With close inspection the image quality can not compete with the Fujinon lens regarding sharpness, crispness or vignetting. Vignetting is actually somewhat less in reality; I often add some during editing to keep the eye on the main subject (someting to be learned from Ansel Adams). There are no completely dark edges, despite that the image is larger than the lens was made for. Much of the vignetting could be removed by editing, if desired. It must be kept in mind here that the Canon 1.2/50 is a fairly old construction which is often criticized for its soft character. But would you have noted this? To my perception, the lens renders surprisingly sharp, at least in the image areas which are important to me. The overall impression meets my intentions with these images very well, particularly the soft background without harsh structures. It has to be taken into account here that the lens has a slight wide angle character on the medium format camera, which makes separation generally more difficult than with a portrait lens. I am glad I used this lens here.

The second camera used during this shoot is a Canon EOS 1V. This is Canon’s last analog reflex camera, which I owned already a few years ago but sold it for about 200 € in a weak moment. I always regretted this later, because it is a well constructed and solid camera. Opposite to the even more solid Nikon F5 it can be used without vertical grip and witha  lightweight lithium battery instead of mignon cells. Because of this, it is considerably lighter and more compact. I do not own my F5 any more since quite a while and replaced it with the EOS 1V – also because I can use its lenses with the Fujifilm GFX. I do not note down exposure data and they are not imprinted on the negative either. I transfer the data from the internal memory using a Meta35 adapter into my PC, where the metadate can be assigned to the images. This can be done also with the F5 and some other Nikon cameras.

I used the EOS 1v in our shoot with the EF 1.2/85 L II, which is a big chunk of glass but considerably smaller than for example the Sigma Art 1.4/85. Those who want to know that a disease can also have positive outcomes may wand to read the amusing fictive story of the Canon EF 1,2/85 development. As evident in the last two images of the second set (marked **) this lens is rightfully named bokeh king. The images were taken on Ilford HP-5 which was developed in Kodak D-76. The images are more contasty than than the corresponding digital images, but this meets my intention well, as does the clearly visible (native) grain. The grain in the analog images was added in post. The negatives were scanned with the Fujifilm GFX 50s and an adapted macro lens. They were positioned in a Durst negative carrier with two glassless upper masks. These are slightly larger than the lower mask, hence the border of the images can also be scanned. All this with perfect flat film without glass. Those who used the Epson scanner to scan images know what I am talking about.

The portraits in the third set of images were made with the GFX 50s and the Fujinon portrait lens. Fully opern aperture, of course.

The final two images (marked ***) are analog images, taken with a Speed Graphic 4×5 inch sheet film camera and a Dallmeyer Pentac lens. This lens is known for its shallow depth of field wide open, and I am a little surprised it is not as pronounced as expected. Furthermore, the structures of the trees in the background are more disturbing than with the lenses I used for the other images. Quite interesting is a nostalgic slight glow around bright structures, which is also a characteristic of the pentac lenses when used wide open. The images were made on expired Tri-X, exposed at ISO 200 and developed in D-76. They are rather grainy when compared to the 35mm images which were taken at slightly higher sensitivity. If I wanted it differently, I would use a different film or shoot digital 😉


With Flora at an old Cemetery