Dave Butcher worked for ILFORD Photo for 21 years, with six in research and the remainder on the technical side of Marketing. He also ran the photographic printing department and credits the ILFORD printers as being responsible for teaching him “to print properly.” He’s now one of a handful of Ilford Master Darkroom Printers and the only one trained by ILFORD. Dave has been a full-time professional fine art photographer for nine years now.
Dave was kind enough to share details of getting the right exposure for the above shot, taken at McClure Pass, Colorado. “Sunlit snow with shadow areas in the shot is always a difficult subject,” he says.
“I use the spot meter on the narrow zoom setting—why did Sekonic put anything else on the L-508 meter?—and point it at light shadows,” Dave explains. “These are areas where I want to keep full detail. I dial in the filter adjustment—for the coloured filters I screw onto the front of the lens to change various tones in the image—as needed before taking any readings. The ILFORD FP4 film is rated at the full film speed of 125 ISO and it gets normal development in the processing. This gives me pretty easy negatives to print in the darkroom, usually just the two basic split grade exposures (one low contrast and one high) and maybe some burning in of the sky. That’s it. I never overprint my images, and I like to see detail everywhere, but with good overall contrast.”
“I metered off the tree trunks in light shadows,” he continues. “It was quite a tricky shot to take, as the snow was a few feet deep and didn’t support my weight. This meant I had to crawl over the snow to spread my weight, then put the tripod up, camera on top, meter, and then check the composition by trying to look through the viewfinder without sinking into the snow. After a few goes, I managed it without moving the camera.”
With only ten shots on a roll and bracketing of two negatives to each shot bringing it down to five shots a roll, Dave has a need to get his settings right on location. “I need to know I have the shot when I press the button—that’s why I use the Sekonic meters,” he says. “I mainly bracket in case there’s a defect on the negative because of processing or coating faults, not because of any uncertainty over exposure. I use a Sekonic L-508 mostly, because it’s smaller and lighter, but also have an L-758D as a backup. They both go on all my photo trips with me. I’d be lost without them! I have used Sekonic meters for nearly fifteen years now. I use Sekonic meters all the time, never the camera meter.”
Dave shoots Mamiya 7 medium format cameras and works exclusively in black and white with ILFORD FP4 film. We’ve been enjoying his work since we’ve learned about it, and hope to show more examples of how he gets his perfect exposures and exacting printing. Stay tuned.
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