ILFORD XP2 Super often gets a bad rap, as did the C41 B&W offerings from Fuji and Kodak before they were canned. I started shooting it while home from university for holidays and summers, since I could get it inexpensively and easily processed near my parents’ house rather than bringing the exposed film back to the school’s darkroom with me.

When I did get it into the darkroom though, I found that it printed consistently, easily, and nicely. High contrast, rich tones, smooth grain. Kind of like Kodak T-MAX or ILFORD Delta, but maybe a little nicer…

It also scans well, and you can use Epson ICE if you like.

Just before covid hit I had started shooting a series on the enormous, complicated, and mundane series of canals, locks, floodgates, sluices, and levees that controls the watershed of Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. The system as a whole is run by the South Florida Water Management District – the SFWMD – and started off as a series of US Army Corp of Engineers works after the Okeechobee Hurricane in the 30’s. Growing up in the area, it was pedestrian and uninteresting, something that’s just THERE and doesn’t really command much attention.

After living away for a while I realized how important and unique it really is, and how strangely it cuts across and connects the landscape. It runs from the depths of the everglades through the agricultural land below Lake Okeechobee, cutting up and irrigating the sugarcane plots before winding its way through the enormous suburban sprawl surrounding Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, finally letting out into the intercoastal and Biscayne Bay.

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In December of 2019 and January 2020, I went out early in the morning to catch golden hour light on the various things that keep suburban South Florida above water. I thought the rich tones of XP2 Super and a medium yellow filter (Y48) would work well to start working on a sketch of this system, which just due to it’s size and complexity is an (overly?) ambitious goal. To keep things simple I decided to stick to a single prime lens (Nikon Nikkor 50mm 1.2 AI-s). I shoot left-eyed and find I can stay more focused when I don’t have to screw around with advancing the film, so I often use the motor drive on my Nikon F3 + MD-4 winder. Plus, power rewind is nice. These are five frames from one of the first rolls of that project, which was put on hold shortly afterwards by Covid travel restrictions.

Development was by Dale Labs in Hollywood, FL, and scanning was done at home on an Epson Perfection V800.

Wet prints were done as well, 5×7 and 8×10, fiber and RC, and came out very nicely. Mostly I was using a #3.5 filter, occasionally a 3 or 4, and this gave good, strong contrast with rich tones.

~ Patrick

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