Shutter Hub member Andrew Keedle is a UK-based photographer, with a long history in black and white film photography. Using all formats of analogue film from 35mm through Medium to Large and Ultra Large format, Andrew creates his striking images using the Trichrome process – combining three red/green/blue-filtered black and white (B&W) negatives to produce a colour image. He finds using and developing film adds an additional level of joy to his process.
I first came across the Trichrome process randomly reading a couple of threads on Twitter and various linked articles. One was about Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky who documented early 20th Century Russia using the technique. The other was by someone much more recent using modern B&W film and software to make the final colour image.
Trichrome images date back to the mid 19th Century and it is one of the original methods for making colour images. Three B&W exposures are made, each using one of Red, Green and Blue filters. The developed negatives are then combined as the RGB components of a colour image. Originally this was done by projecting them with the same filters and overlapping them, these days it’s done in software.
I’m a long standing fan of B&W photography so initially I just wanted to try the process as a bit of fun and something different. I just wanted to see if I could do it and to simply reinforce learnings about filters, exposure and colour management.
The initial images I created were for #fp4party on twitter. A month long celebration of Ilford Photo’s wonderful FP4 Plus film, one of my favourites. This was as far as I was intending to go with it. The results though blew my socks off and the response to them was fabulous, this meant I simply had to explore some more.
These images are the result of those explorations so far. In perfect conditions and with great patience and hard work you can create images that are almost indistinguishable from “normal” single exposure colour photographs. However, with the slightest breeze or the smallest movement during the three exposures wonderful artefacts are introduced that can turn the result other worldly. With deliberately long exposures and careful selection of scenes these artefacts move the photographs to another plane of reality.
The results are photographs of things and scenes but not as they ever were. The capturing of time with movement and funky colours that were never there is addictive. Varying degrees of digital processing are needed to create these images but there is no switching or changing of the colours. They may be enhanced and tweaked but they are never replaced. They are the original colours that were produced by stacking the 3 B&W negatives on the RGB channels.
As I’ve experimented with the technique I have learned how to anticipate how a scene may react to the process. You can never predict the final result, but you can use your knowledge to try and create something intentional.
The “Rainbow Bluebells” is one such intentional image. With the several minute exposures required by using a pinhole camera and heavy colour filtration I knew the shadow of the tree would move over the Bluebells. I knew this would cause different colours to be created but I couldn’t predict the resulting rainbow image.
With “Colour and Movement #1” I wanted to capture the moving grass in the foreground and the static and strong woodland against a moving mass of clouds and colour. Picking the right day with the right light, wind, sky and clouds took a while. One quirk of the process is that the movement and light might not be consistent for the three exposures. The wind dropped for one of them but this gives us the definition in the grass whilst retaining the movement in the clouds and the colour this creates. An intentional but not predictable image.
Fast moving clouds on blue skies are a great Trichrome target. With “Psychedelic” I again waited for the right conditions and armed with pushed HP5, ND filters and the deep colour filters I was able to make 30 second exposure to capture the movement of the clouds. Too long and the clouds become a complete blur and you lose the contrast between the blue skies and the white clouds. With the movement over the three exposures you capture the same clouds in different places with blue sky filling the gaps. When brought together you get these amazing Psychedelic skies. To say I was surprised with the result though is an understatement. I had to check several times that I had done everything correctly in the many digital steps involved before I was sure this was what I captured. Intentional but entirely unpredictable.
I’ve tried this process with medium format, large format pinhole and Ultra Large Format (ULF) view cameras. Each form has it own quirks and signature that can be applied to achieve the desired result. ULF photography is hard enough as it is and throwing Trichrome into the process makes it triply so. It’s also very expensive. I’ve only made 2 ULF Trichrome images and those are “Photo Realistic” for want of a better term as it’s hard to be brave when using £30 of film for a single unpredictable image.
Despite intending to only give the process a try and then put it aside I have found myself drawn to experiment further with how to create images that take advantage of its features. As a B&W photographer I suppose I now have to accept that I might actually be a colour one. Albeit one that can carry on using his favourite B&W films and film cameras.
The Trichrome process is actually quite simple in principle. The hard parts are finding suitable deep blue filters and having enough patience to work through the digital parts. These are again simple enough but the colour balancing and grading can be quite tedious. That patience is well-rewarded though in my mind. Give it a go and don’t be shy in asking for any help or advice.
Join our mailing list for lots of good photography things direct to your inbox – our newsletters, calls for entry, updates on our work, and invitations to events and exhibitions.
Not a Shutter Hub member yet? Join here for opportunities to promote your work online and in exhibitions, access selected opportunities, events, seminars and workshops, meet up and share photographic experiences, and become part of our growing community…