Thursday, 21 March 2019

Landscape Mode

For some reason I seem to be operating in Landscape Mode these days.  Perhaps it's a case of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" (there are a lot of landscape photographers about this neck of the woods) but it may be more a result of my inability to walk about much at the minute, for reasons already mentioned.  So when I'm out, I'm usually in the car or not very far from it.  I don't really mind - variety is, after all, the spice of life, or so we are told.  It's quite relaxing to set up the tripod and think a little more carefully about composition and such matters. Heck I’ll be doing Still Life soon if I’m not careful (Confession: Still Life has always held a bit of a fascination for me - but I really don’t know where to start with it).

When I’m out&about I find myself worrying less and less about waiting for the optimal weather/lighting conditions when it come to taking a shot.  If I think about things too much I find that I don't take many (enough?) photographs - "The light could be better", "It's too bright/dull/wet/misty". So lately I've taken to shooting away no matter what and perhaps being a little more authentic (that word again) with regards to the prevailing conditions.  Trying to capture what is there at the time, rather than waiting for the 'perfect moment'.

On the day that this shot was taken it was a little misty and there was a lot of precipitation in the air (Yeh, I know - not uncommon for this part of the world). That’s why it looks like I’ve smeared petroleum jelly over the centre of my lens, in case you were wondering.I was down on my usual beach (Portstewart Strand), most likely with The Hound in tow. This is looking West over the length of the beach towards Castlerock. Mussenden Temple, which you might remember seeing a day or two ago from the other side, looking East, is just about visible on the headland if you click on the image:

Portstewart Strand on a slightly hazy morning, Adox MCC paper

As you can also see, there were a few hardy souls on the beach that day.  Mostly it's the dog-walkers who brave the elements no matter what.  As long as you've full wet-weather gear on you're generally OK - the temperatures rarely drop below freezing here, even in winter, although the wind-chill factor can make it uncomfortable at times if you're in an exposed place.

It's pretty much a straight print, this one - a very slight burn-in along the top half, that was all. On HP5+ film via the Hasselblad, on Adox MCC paper, which I know I’ve said before but I really do like it.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Portstewart Harbour

Portstewart Harbour, sea and sky for you today - fresh out of the darkroom on Saturday afternoon:

Portstewart Harbour on Adox MCC

It's from the 'Blad but as you can see I cropped it, this time to a 6x4,5 format.  I've been obsessing lately about formats and I've been trying - as much as possible - to print to the same ratio as the negative.  So for 35mm that would be 2:3, for 6x6 it's 1:1.  But sometimes the negative just doesn't work well in it's original format and this was one of those cases.  So as I say, I opted for a 6:4.5 crop.  I don't feel too bad since you can get a 6x4.5 back for the 'Blad so I can convince myself of a certain authenticity to it.  I priced an A16 back on the Auction Site and they go for somewhere in the £100-£200 range.  A bit steep when you can do like I did here and simply crop in the darkroom. A couple of hundred quid still buys a decent amount of film these days...

To be honest I wasn't sure if I'd have anything to write about this week since I've been laid up for a while on account of me legs.  Bed rest, elevated feet and all that melarky.  It looks like this will be the pattern for some time, until the medics get their act together and sort out those pesky veins of mine.  I'm back on my feet now but on 'light duties' only.  Among other things that means putting a strict limit on darkroom work, since I'm on my feet a lot when I'm printing. Ironically that’s one of the attractions of darkroom work for me - the fact that I’m not sat at a computer editing my images. Anyway, on Saturday last it was an hour and two prints and I was out.

Thursday, 14 March 2019


This is a snapshot in more ways than one, I guess.  Besides the subject - my grandfather - there's the setting and for me, many good memories.  As you can see, Grandpa's got his thigh-length waders on and is standing in the shallows of the River Roe, which lies under the mountain of Binevenagh from which the last photograph was taken (here). And he’s using his fly rod, most likely with a fly he’s tied himself. And his jaw is relaxed, as it usually was :)

Grandpa fishing in the River Roe, c1977.  Printed 2019, Adox MCC paper.
This was pretty much how I spent most Saturdays up until the point I got my first job in the Photographic Department of a local chemist. Grandpa didn’t drive so relied upon a (much younger) relative (Arthur) to take him fishing in the fishing season and shooting in the shooting season. Arthur lived in Ballymena so was a good 40mins from us, and with another 30mins to The Roe do it was midday or after before the first cast was made. Grandpa was usually waiting from about 10am..."What does that man do?" was a constant if ‘That man’ had nothing else to think about on his day off other than taking us fishing...

Each bend in the river had a different name - Boat Hole, Stone Hole, Reed Hole... In the ‘holes’ lived fish (salmon). Ideally. If they were ever in their holes at all, by the time I arrived on the scene it was the case that most times they stayed there, in spite of the myriad of flies, spinners and worms that were used to entice them out.  Those Holes were fished up and down all day, by the way - only stopping for sandwiches and tea when we sat anywhere that we fancied and contemplated on the world around us. 

Good times. As a teenager of course it wasn’t appreciated enough.  What I wouldn’t give to have a day up The Roe with Grandpa&Arthur now. But life don’t work like that. Thank goodness for an OM-1 and Ilford, though.

Monday, 11 March 2019

The North Coast

As you know, if you've been paying attention, I was up and out early-ish the other morning.  I ended up driving west towards the table-top mountain of Binevenagh.  There's a handy layby at the top, near the viewing point for Donegal/Inishown and I pulled in there and sat a while, wondering if it was worth venturing out.  There was only one other vehicle there - a makeshift camper van with the windows covered.  Occasionally you get 'free campers' who just park up anywhere for the night - they're not really supposed to do that and lots of car parks have signs to that effect but my guess is that at this time of year no-one is really going to either notice or care that much.  I hope they had heating as it would have been into negative temperatures that night, before the wind chill factor which would have been significant on this exposed headland. Anyway, I decided not to get out of the car, as it was quite misty and the light was just a bit too murky.   But just as I turned the car back towards home the sun decided to make an appearance. I pulled in at the side of the road and set up the tripod with the 'Blad and the 250mm Sonnar lens:

Early morning, looking from Binevenagh towards the Giant's Causeway

The little round tower in the foreground is Mussenden Temple, which is probably one of the most photographed buildings in Northern Ireland, perched as it is on the cliff edge.  I've posted shots of it before (here, for example).  The finger of land stretching out into the sea is Portrush and the headlands in the distance would be the Giant's Causeway and Benbane Head.
It took be a few attempts to get this one the way I wanted it.  Either the foreground was too dark or the sea&sky were.  In the end, I opted to get the foreground right under the enlarger and then burn-in the top 2/3 of the scene.  It needed a subtle hand and this was definitely one of the those times where regular printing helped.  When I'm out of practice I find it easy to be too heavy-handed and then the burn-in lines are all too evident on the print.  What I wanted was to pretty much recreate the scene as I saw it, with everything fading in to the distance in the soft morning light, the air still full of moisture.  I was happy with the end result.  On Ilford MG Classic Fibre paper and my usual HP5+ and ID-11 developer.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Trees at Mountsandel

I was out the other morning with the 'Blad and boy was it cold.  I suppose it's still early March, so we have to be thankful there isn't snow on the ground but that might come yet so I'll not say any more on the matter.

St Patrick's Day is coming up, in case your didn't know.  In Chicago, where The Brother lives, they turn the rivers green and have great aul' hooley.  Here in Ireland we don't do that.  No - we're all good-living God-fearing people here.  We got rid of the troublemakers a couple of centuries ago, y'see - to the "New World".  Hah!

If only, eh?  No - there is a grand celebration on the 17th March in Ireland and lots of people enjoy a pint (or two) of The Black Stuff (Guinness) early in the day (morning) and then try to make it through the next 12 hours without falling asleep on a park bench somewhere (usually no chance).  'Nuff said.

Anyway, this was one of the shots from t'other day:

Trees in Mountsandel by the River Bann, Coleraine.
The foreground foliage was reddish in colour so I stuck an orange filter on the front of the 250mm Sonnar on the Hasselblad.  The resulting print looked promising but I thought it would tone so I gave the second print a little more time under the enlarger - overprinting it by half a stop or so.  A short bleach in PotFerri followed by a dunk in thiourea and you have - more or less - what you see here.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Portstewart Bay, again

I don't think I'll ever tire of this view, to be honest.  That may or may not be bad news for you, poor reader.  But I can drive the car up here and unload the Hasselblad and tripod and whatever else I need and snap away to my heart's content.  These days, with the legs what they are, that's a bonus, believe me.  So here you go...again:

Portstewart Bay, towards Derry/Donegal.  HP5+ on the 'Blad.  Probably Adox MCC paper but I can't be sure.

As you are probably aware, every time I visit this place it looks different. On account of the light, of course - and the clouds.

Sometimes a print has to grow on you and this was one of those times.  This particular print has sat around for a week or two. The subtlety of the clouds finally got to me and I thought "Maybe this one's not too bad".

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Johannes Keijzer, Pauper

You may have seen a version of this before - it's of the Pauper's Prison in Drenthe, Netherlands.  The authorities started out with good intentions, rounding up vagrants and beggars all over the country and offering them a new life in a purpose-built facility where they could grow their own produce and live out their lives in perhaps a more purposeful way.  In the end, though, it became a prison for many - impossible to leave and though they may have gained in some ways they lost their freedom.

The courtyard had these plinths with haunting images of some of the inmates, complete with detailed notes of their height, age, eye colour etc.

I was never really happy with the original print I did, which you can see here.  There was too much empty space in the first print which detracted from the objects of interest - the faces staring out at you with the deadest of expressions. But I always thought that there was a better print in there somewhere, so I revisited this negative the other day and played around with composition while under the enlarger to see what could be done.  I wound the enlarger up high and messed about with the easel to see if a tighter crop might work. This was the result:

The Pauper's Prison, Drenthe - on Ilford Warmtone RC paper

 I think it's a better composition.  There's more emphasis on the leading guy (let's give him his name, eh? - Johannes Keijzer) and the repetition of the images is, I think, more effective with the wider crop.

It was challenging enough to get it looking like this.  I had to dodge the face of Johannes and then burn in the white cards underneath so that the writing would at least be visible, if not entirely legible.  Then a bit of burn-in with the sky - I wanted a darker, moodier sky, given the subject matter.  Finally a burn-in of the gravel, trying to get it to lead the eye into the shot as well as balance out the trees.  That's a lot more work than I usually do for a print.