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  Oil Creek Rail Road Bridge
  examples and stories on the making of photographs
  Spring comes anything but early here in Northwest PA. So on a cold blustery Saturday in early March of 2008 I found myself in Oil Creek State Park just to the south of Titusville Pennsylvania.
The temps were in the low 20s (6-8 for all you metric types) and there was a good 12" of snow (30cm) on the ground.

I had spent the afternoon walking along a small creek that flows into the main branch of Oil Creek. Walking was very difficult in the virgin snow. The snow was hiding the many rocks, stumps, and many other trip hazards under a blanket of white. After shooting several rolls of IR film in my Holgas back in the woods along the creek I decided to call it a day and walk back to the car.

On my way back I came upon the old railroad bridge over Oil Creek. This massive iron and steel bridge has been hanging over the creek for around 100 years. I have walked past it and photographed it many times over the years. As this is an active railroad I have never walked across it for fear of getting hit by train.

I knew this would make a good shot and I previsualized a scene with bright snow and a dark foreboding sky. Capturing that vision however presented several challenges. The first was making a good exposure of the snow. Snow is always a challenge to photograph well. The problem is that it is very easy to over expose it into a sea of white with no texture, or underexpose it into a a dull gray mass. Shooting snow with IR film takes this challenge to a whole new level, doing so with a Holga with no autoexposure, no aperture control, and no shutter speed control some would say is downright crazy.

Since I am crazy anyway I decided to go for it. It was getting late in the afternoon and the sun was behind me. This was creating nice light on the foreground snow and interesting shadows from the beams on the top of bridge. The sky was partly sunny with large patches of bright blue sky with thin white wispy clouds, far from the dark foreboding sky I wanted. (more on that later)

Using my high tech light meter (my eyes and brain) I guessed that an exposure of just under 1 second would work best, but to be on the safe side I also decided it was worthwhile to bracket 4 exposures. So I took one at 1/2 a second, one at around 9/10ths of a second, one at 2 seconds, and one at 4 seconds.

The film was developed with Diafine and upon looking at the negatives I found out that my guessed exposure of 9/10ths of a second was dead on. That exposure exposed the snow perfectly with lots of texture. It also under exposed the sky and clouds. When the sun is behind you in IR clear blue sky in front of you is often rendered very dark if not black as there is very little IR light in blue skies that do not have direct sunlight in them. This effect is highlighted even more when you have a brightly lit foreground that allows you to underexpose the sky even more. This effect is muted in this shot however by the think wispy clouds. The end result is what appears to be dark stormy clouds when in fact it was pretty bright and sunny. Tricky isn't it? Just one of the many cool things you can do with a Holga 120N and Efke IR820 infrared film.

  unless noted all content copyright 2006-2008 by Wallace Billingham all rights reserved