Over the last few weeks the weather God’s have been very kind to Hong Kong! We have had bright sunny days, with attractive cumulus clouds dotting the skies and stunning sunsets most evenings!
I decided to try make use of the excellent conditions and went to Ting Kau bridge. A pretty cable span bridge between Tsing Yi Island and the New Territories of Hong Kong. The bridge serves as an important road link, carrying traffic from the New Territories to Hong Kong’s ports, Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island.
My idea was to make an architectural image of the bridge with a long exposure. I have wanted to shoot this bridge for quite sometime. I planned to make the image a long exposure and use it as an entry for the Long Exposure theme this year at the Cathay Camera Club. The Cathay Camera Club has monthly competition nights, and each night has a theme.
The camera I chose was the Pentax 645nii! It’s a fabulous medium format camera producing negatives with an aspect ratio of 6cm x 4.5cm (645). It has one of the nicest viewfinders out of any camera I’ve used, an excellent Matrix metering system, focus confirmation and AF with some lenses, automatic film advance and a body with good handling. Anybody who has used a DSLR before might be quite familiar with the kind of handling experience I’m talking about.
I picked up a Kipon lens adapter recently that allows Hasselblad V series lenses to be used on the Pentax 645 mount. I love Hasselblad glass!! The Carl Zeiss designed lenses are optically phenomenal and I have a full compliment of filters to use on them. I like this combination because to me the Pentax 645 handles far better than the Hasselblad 503CX body I have.
Because the image was intended as a print entry, I wanted a fairly fine grain film that would make a large sized print with good tonality. I chose Fomapan 100, a film I had previously only used in 35mm format, but even in 35mm I have found Fomapan 100 can produce a nice 11x14 darkroom image.
The light that afternoon on Lido Beach was marvellous! One of those golden summer evenings! Lido Beach sits on the North-Western side of Ting Kau bridge, and with great light felt I was in for a treat! Whilst waiting for the right moment, I made some test exposures with the Sonnar 150mm f/4 lens and a group of different filters but once the light settled I had 2 exposures remaining for the main event!
I fitted the Hasselblad Plannar 80mm f/2.8 back on the camera and set it at f/11. The first exposure I had a 10 stop ND graduated filter as well as an orange filter. The metered time was 17 minutes!! Now calculating Fomapan 100’s reciprocity correction would have required an exposure well over an hour long! Probably closer to 2hrs according to their data sheet. That was way longer than I had anticipated! I decided to go with an exposure of 40 minutes…. Which turned out far too short! The negative was terribly under exposed. The last frame I removed the filters and metered up the same composition. The meter was looking for a 2 minute exposure, I compensated for reciprocity by 2 stops and ended up with an 8 minute exposure! Much better!! Fomapan’s data sheet would have led me to a 16 minute exposure but the scene was a night landscape and I did not want it all to look like 18% grey so the 2 stops of reciprocity correction turned out to be a good choice.
That being said the final exposure had several issues. Firstly, the viewfinder on the Pentax was not covered during the exposure. This resulted in a light ring on the negative near the bottom of the frame. Another issue I’ve discovered is that Fomapan 100 doesn’t render particularly well for long exposures, with the tones in the skies starting to break up where a better film would have held more even tones. I’m not too sure if this is due to the type of anti-halation layer used in Foma’s emulsion or if it’s for some other reason, perhaps a more knowledgeable reader can shed some light on the matter? … no pun intended!
Composition wise I had hoped to include a lot of water in the image to add some movement and drama, but the foreground had a lot of distracting elements, so I reluctantly angled the camera upwards, and kept just a slither of ocean in the bottom of the frame. I liked the diagonal of the bridge. In the daylight, the sun hitting the distant buildings in Tsuen Wan would have certainly been an issue causing distractions but in the evening light the surrounding buildings rendered in darker tones and complemented the scene nicely.
This shoot highlighted a couple points that are worth keeping in mind. Firstly, you can never do too much research! Had I spent more time looking at example images online I might have chosen a different angle to shoot the bridge. Also, I had never used Fomapan 100 for long exposures before, I probably should have researched it a little more too, it turns out not to be the best choice for long exposures.
I’ll definitely be going back! I am sure I can make a stronger image at Ting Kau Bridge, and there are different angles that might make for a nice composition. Previously I have used Fuji Acros 100 and Ilford Ortho 80 for long exposures, both of which perform well! So those are the emulsions I’ll carry next time I make these types of exposures.
It’s so important when you are going on photography outings, particularly as hobbyists, that you prioritise enjoying the process over the final image! Obviously the picture is important too but there are many variables that can conspire against you, leading to an image that may not match up to your expectations. I’m grateful for having kept this in mind that day out at Ting Kau Bridge! Despite not having a photo I was particularly happy with, having the time to just soak in the scene that golden evening was lovely indeed!