Thursday, 21 January 2021

Going Bananas

Well we are still pretty much housebound here in The North East Liberties of Coleraine, apart from our daily walk down the road.  This situation will continue for another few weeks, I think - until the numbers of people hospitalised with the virus starts to drop.  There's talk of schools not opening again until after Easter.  Then it will be a mad dash for assessments (i.e., exams) before closing again for the summer.  The last 12 months have been the strangest time for everyone under the age of 80 but Missy's last couple of years at school will be memorable - albeit for all the wrong reasons.  

So, what to photograph?  Only one thing for it, really - anything lying around that looks remotely photographable.  Today that means bananas:

Bananas, 2021.  Ilford Delta 3200 on MG Classic fibre paper, thiourea toned.

The sunlight coming in from the left side was a tad strong that day - at this time of year it's either feast or famine with regard to the sun. Usually famine, it has to be said - we're getting a lot of overcast, rainy days with yucky light.  I toned the print in my home-made thiourea toner and the result was quite good, I think.  The only thing I would do again would be smooth the cover that the bananas are sitting on - the creases in the foreground are distracting, as are the indentations in the background.  I quite like the texture of it though so I might try this one again.  Taken on the 'Blad with, I think, the 60mm CB lens on it - and this is almost full frame so I think I probably had an extension tube on it as well.

I tried a tight crop to see if it would improve things.  Not sure - possibly: 

There are more to come in this series, you'll be delighted to hear.  Possibly a lot more.  And if things get really bad then there's always tulips, a la John Blakemore.  Actually I doubt there's much point in photographing tulips, as Mr Blakemore has set that particular bar extremely high.  But you never know, it might be fun to try.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Winter Sun

The sun was breaking and entering the other morning and casting rather interesting shadows all over the house.  I snapped this one up on the 'Blad on good old HP5+:

Winter shadows on the wall, on Ilford MG Classic fibre paper, thiourea toned.

The shadows are from plants we have in our porch and were nicely diffused before hitting the wall inside the house.  The curved (and carved) wooden thing is the top of an antique chaise lounge that sits in our hallway.  I say antique, but really I just mean old. I can't decide if I like or or hate it but it's been there for the best part of 20 years so I guess it must be OK.  Like a lot of our furniture it came from an auction and I remember the 'Man with a Van' we got to transport it home.  Him and his sidekick carried it in and his mate remarked  how nice the piece was...the main man replied 'I think it's hideous'.  That was such a hilarious remark to make in front of me - I nearly laughed out loud on the spot.  I mean, I admire his honesty and all that but it showed an interesting lack of diplomacy on his part - particularly when we were the guys paying him for his work.  It's strange what our brains decide to remember and forget - some throwaway comment from 20 odd years ago. You'd think something more important would have come in and taken its place by now, wouldn't you...

Thursday, 14 January 2021


 This bench sat outside my Aunt's apartment and now lives in our garden, though I had to move it to catch the sunlight the other morning: 

Bench, January 2021.  Ilford Delta 3200 on Ilford MG Classic fibre paper. Toned in home-made sepia toner.

I was surprised how well it printed, as the whole roll of Delta 3200 looked awful when it came out of the developing tank...very flat, low contrast negatives.  That was in spite of rating it at 800 and developing as per Ilford's recommendations.  That's the second roll of this film that I've had poor results from, which will teach me for be lazy and not doing some proper testing.  I've a few more rolls of it which I would like to keep for 'situations which demand a really fast film' but I think I'm going to have to sacrifice one more in order to get to grips with it.  That's a pain, since it's an expensive film. 

I had finally exhausted my last shop-bought sepia toner so I made up my own, using one of the standard recipes from Tim Rudman's excellent Toning Book.  For the record, the bleach was 1% potassium ferricyanide, 0.5% potassium bromide; the toner was 1% thiocarbamide and 0.5% sodium hydroxide.  I diluted the bleach 1:6 so that things moved slowly and I was able pull the print early, since I tend to like a light touch when it comes to toning.  

Monday, 11 January 2021

The Other Side...

...of the rock, that is.  Looking West this time towards Benbane Head way in the distance, where you will find the Causeway of a certain Giant called Finn McCool:

Delta 3200 film, on MGV paper. 

Things are quite depressing in Northern Ireland at the minute.  Not, perhaps, as bad as things across the pond, where the scenes in Washington DC last week were, quite frankly, astonishing.  And sad, given the loss of life.  I don't know where Joe Biden and his team would start to bring the country together again but it's clear that a lot of people need to step back from the rhetoric and stop stirring the pot.  We know all about that over here, where certain politicians know exactly what buttons to press to get one side at loggerheads with the other.  Unfortunately not everyone is capable, or willing, to see the damage done - or perhaps they are, and don't care how fractured society becomes as long as they keep hold of their little slice of the pie as long as possible.  Good luck Mr Biden - you'll need it.

Over here, in sleepy Northern Ireland, the final severing of the cord between the UK and the EU is starting to hit home.  In case you haven't been keeping up with events, NI is remaining in the EU single market for goods, essentially to stop a hardening of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (which is of course still firmly in the EU).   The upshot of that is that goods arriving from Great Britain (England, Scotland & Wales) are now required to be checked at NI ports.  That means that all goods entering NI from mainland GB require paperwork.  All fine and dandy, except that no-one seems to have done any planning whatsoever to ensure that the new system will work.  Already we are noticing that some Amazon Marketplace and Ebay suppliers are refusing to ship to Northern Ireland.  That's annoying, particularly in the current climate where we are being advised to 'Stay Home', but is, I suspect, only temporary.  Well, I hope it is.  The bigger problem is food.  Every supermarket in NI is reporting shortages and reduced deliveries.  The problem, as I understand it, is that a whole container can be held back if the paperwork for one item is not correct.  Not an issue if that container holds bicycles or computer parts but a big problem if that container holds perishable goods.  GB suppliers are reluctant to ship as if the food spoils and is rejected by the buyer then the seller may well be liable for the cost.  We've been doing a weekly online shop since the start of the COVID crisis - this week they failed to deliver broccoli, butter, cabbage, orange juice and various veggie/meat free products.  There are, apparently, lots of empty shelves in the supermarkets.

So...the next few weeks will be interesting.  Prices will undoubtedly rise, as they always do when supply is interrupted.  Hopefully the politicians will actually earn their salaries - I  was about to add 'for a change' but stopped myself since not politicans are useless, even if it appears like that at times.  Actually I might be being overly-generous here - and step in to get things moving again.  

In the longer run, Northern Ireland may well prosper under the new arrangements.  We have a big farming community so we shouldn't be in any danger of serious food shortages, although we might have to forget about eating avocados, grapes and oranges for a while.  We should be fine for dairy products, meat and fish.  And potatoes, of course. Our local suppliers might even find an uptick in sales, which would be no bad thing for our economy. And remaining part of the EU single market, while still in the UK does put Northern Ireland in a unique position, which should work to our advantage.  Time will tell. 

Thursday, 7 January 2021

The Rock

 Not, not that Rock - this rock, at Ballintoy: 

Delta 3200 on MGV paper

I wonder what caused the crack near the top?  Must have been a pretty large force - but not large enough to separate it into two.

I like the two figures way in the distance on the right, which give the shot some perspective.  Mind you, these days you'd be hard pushed to get a shot in Ballintoy without someone in it.  I suppose it's good that folk are out enjoying our beautiful landscape, so I can't complain too much (although I do, regularly, as you know).  I just wish they weren't there at the same time as me.  Maybe I need to get up earlier...

Ain't the square format just perfect?  Sometimes when I print 35mm I think how unnaturally stretched it looks.  4x5 I can cope better with, I think, but the square does it for me.  I could easily shoot square all the time.

Monday, 4 January 2021

Portrush West Bay

 Looking over the bay towards the town:

Even on a cold December morning there were some hardy souls in the water, surf boards at the ready.  Hasselblad, HP5+, ID-11 printed on Ilford MG Classic fibre paper.  

It's a very pleasant walk along the edge of the Bay all the way round to the Harbour, but I chickened out - it was pretty cold and I hadn't the right gear on.  

I'm not sure how much I'll be able to be out and about for the next six weeks or so - Northern Ireland is on a big lockdown to try to bring the COVID numbers down.  It's supposed to be essential travel only - not that you would think that's the case from the photographs appearing on social media sites.  Seaside resorts would appear to be fair game judging from the number of cars and people around.  We're sticking to a dander up and down the road for a bit of fresh air and exercise, which is absolutely fine.  The lockdown does mean, however, I might be back to some Still Life shots in the very near future, which won't be quite so fine as my garage (where I have a table set up next to a window) is chock-a-block with 'stuff' as well as being as cold as cold can be.  So I think I'll have to set something up inside the house.  We shall see what happens - you'll be the first to know.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Hydrangea and a milestone

We've a couple of Hydrangea shrubs in the garden and a few weeks ago their leaves were turning colour rather splendidly.  I ventured out with a tripod, a Hasselblad and a 150mm lens (I think) with a dark red filter on the front of it.  

Hydrangea leaves in autumn 2020.  HP5+ in ID-11, on MG Classic fibre paper.

The leaves themselves were turning dark red, hence the use of the filter which I knew would lighten things considerably.  It's a shame there's a gaping hole in the foliage lower left, which once you've seen it is very distracting. I didn't notice at the time as I was concentrating on getting the large centre arrangement in the middle of the shot.  Ah well, sure it's only 11 months until I can try again...

Oh yes, the milestone.  Well since this is the 31st December 2020 it marks 4 full years that I've been showing only scans of darkroom prints on this place.  Stopping scanning my negatives was the thing that really helped my darkroom work improve - as well as my ability to read a negative and make suitable adjustments to how I expose and subsequently develop the film.  The negative, of course, is the important bit in the process - screw that up and you're in for a hard time in the darkroom.  Scanning masks poor negatives, in my opinion.  Don't get me wrong, it's amazing what software can do with a poorly exposed/developed negative but that's of no help whatsoever when you take that negative into the darkroom and try to print from it.  Anyway, let's see what 2021 brings.  Have a good New Year everyone, wherever you are.