This entry in the Photo Explorations series will focus on a 35mm film piece from the Biltmore Estate.
When I visit the Biltmore, the embarrassment of (photography) riches is overwhelming. After the initial “photograph everything!!!” sessions, I realized I would have to focus my visits with limits on the medium, subject matter, etc. This photograph was taken during a late-afternoon film session in January 2011. I enjoy the way black and white film can enhance stone, and when that is combined with sculpture the results can be fantastic.
This was Kodak 400cn, which is an interesting black and white film as it is developed via the same process as color negatives (C‑41) as opposed to traditional development of black and white film (think Tri‑X, T‑MAX, etc). There are many benefits to this film — smooth grain, incredible scanning fidelity, ease of development and so on. Although it won’t ever give you the grain and feel of a Tri‑X or HP5 (and definitely don’t try pushing or pulling it and then expect most labs to be able to follow those directions), it is an excellent choice for starting in black and white and giving the photographer the opportunity to concentrate on tonal values and shape without the distraction of color reproduction.
Metering was probably done by hand. When there is a difficult lighting situation, a camera’s built-in meter can be thrown off by the difference in ambient light and what is being reflected from the subject. In this case, the statue was offering very bright and very dark spots and I was worried about over/under exposure. With an incident meter, I was able to concentrate only on the light of the scene and not the disparate light readings coming from the statue.
I wanted to tell a story with this piece and not so much document the artwork. By going around the statue, I found angles that lost the statue’s face but gained vantage points for a more engaging point of view. I like to think that this flautist is giving a bit of a salute to the setting sun and is perhaps calling friends together for a nighttime celebration.