Dave Butcher’s 30 Year Photo Odyssey

Aspens and their shadows at McClure Pass, between Telluride and Carbondale in Colorado, with deep snow. ©Dave Butcher

Aspens and their shadows at McClure Pass, between Telluride and Carbondale in Colorado, with deep snow. ©Dave Butcher

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.”

Dave Butcher metering with his L-758 at the Flatirons, Boulder. ©Dave Butcher

Dave Butcher metering with his L-758 at the Flatirons, Boulder. ©Dave Butcher

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.

Learn more about Dave Butcher and his work on his site and blog. Connect with him on Google+Twitter, and Linkedin.


All images and quotes in this post are used with permission and ©Dave Butcher, all rights reserved; story is ©Sekonic. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or repost elsewhere without written permission.

Tags: , ,
Posted in how-to.

One Response to Dave Butcher’s 30 Year Photo Odyssey

  1. Chris says:

    You are absolutely right about the diitgal workflow process. I myself have taken the time to reprocess some of my older diitgal images with new software like Lightroom 4 and it really made a difference. Things like automatic lens correction based on EXIF data, highlights and shadows recovery have allowed me to improve the look of the images.Don’t forget that since film is scanned and converted to diitgal image, the same rules apply. My scanning experience is improved over time (in the same way someone improves his skills in Lightroom or Photoshop) and that leads to better results.But of course there are some things that are some things that are dependent on the medium you use. A 6 9 negative film has a fantastic tonality and a very subtle transition from shadows to highlights. The way it renders color is also different. You can probably emulate to some extent the look of MF film but not 100% and that will demand very good skills in diitgal post processing.I really don’t like spending much time in front of my computer (I don’t have the patience, I prefer to spend more time in the field using filters or waiting for the right lighting conditions) and with film I can get the results I want easier, since I will only perform simple corrections such as curves and levels adjustments.I know people who can work wonders in Photoshop and produce stunning images with a very cheap camera system, but they spend hours in order to do that. This Is just not my cup of tea.Sol it all depends on the way someone chooses his workflow. I work better with film, most people work better with diitgal, if the final image is good then it really doesn’t matter which path you have chosen.(Of course some things are just physics, you cannot emulate the look of a 65mm lens on a 6 9 camera which has the angle of view of a 28mm in a full frame DSLR !!)

Comments are closed.