Friday, 21 November 2014

A short interlude...

Just to let all my faithful readers know there will be a short interlude as I take a break to see The Brother in Chicago.  The good news is I go armed to the teeth with HP5, so all being well there'll be a few darkroom sessions on my return.  The even better news is that I'll be loading up with film over there - as its about 60% of the cost over here, even though the stuff is made in Cheshire - there is a tour of the factory here.  I see others complaining on the FADU forum about the cost of film in the UK and there seems to be no logical explanation for it other than we're prepared to pay more for it here in the UK.  I've ordered a whole dose of 5x4 film as I'm determined to get to grips with the large and heavy camera known as a Sinar F1 which sleeps under a towel in my home office.  I've played a bit with it, but nothing serious.  Hopefully by burning through some FP4 I'll start to get more comfortable with it.  It's too heavy for field work really, but since I'm rarely very far from the car anyway I can't really use that as an excuse.  If I get really frustrated by its weight there's always the possibility of investing in a lightweight 5x4 field camera, such as a Wista, Shen-Hao, Chamonix or even Ebony, but I'm holding back on purchasing more gear for now.  2015 I want to be the year of film and darkroom - honing the basics and getting to grips with producing some decent prints from decent negatives.  I have a hankering for some fibre paper and also to try out some lith printing - some of the lith prints I've seen online have been really impressive and I can't wait.

By the way, FADU - Film and Darkroom User - is a great forum for all things film and darkroom related.  It has a proper traditional slant - no digitally-processed neg scans here - and I like it a lot.  The plan for 2015 is to engage in their monthly print exchanges, where members swap prints.  I don't feel I've got the skill to take part as yet but hopefully things will improve on the technical front with more practice.  There's about 15-20 serious users of the forum who are very knowledgeable and very helpful, plus a whole load of others who chip in from time to time as well.

So to leave you on a thoughtful note here's a scan of a print made sometime in the late 70s.

There's a lot of interest in 'non-sharp' photography which I must admit I have a certain something for.  This guy - Mr Titarenko - is a bit of a master at it.  Another blogger with a penchant for this type of stuff is Ms Andrea Ingram, and you can see some very nice examples on her wonderful blog - as well as very readable blog entries, mostly related to the beautiful isle of Lewis where she resides.

Not a Titarenko, taken and printed sometime late 1970s

The shot you see above looks like the Mersey Tunnel and was most likely taken through the back window of our car on one of our infrequent trips 'to the mainland' in the late 1970s.  I'd like to think it was the more famous tunnel in Monte Carlo, but from the cars visible (Cortina, Mini and Beetle) I suspect the Mersey Tunnel is more likely.  Now I'm pretty sure I wasn't trying to get the effect that I ended up with here, but all the same there is something about it, wouldn't you agree?

Here's another one where I was actually trying for such an effect - this one from the Ballymoney series taken earlier this year in 2014 (you can see the sharp version here - let me know which you prefer!):

Guard cats in Ballymoney - version 2

What is it that's emotive about these?  In the current age where everyone (well, nearly everyone) is obsessed about sharpness of the their lenses, MTF charts and the like it is refreshing to see work which is, well, just different.  There are two obvious ways to end up here - one it to deliberately induce camera movement (as in both the above shots); the other is to capture movement in the frame, so the main subject is moving but everything else remains still.

Here's another one and then I'm off to pack!

Someone I know, 2013




Thursday, 20 November 2014

Traditional Film Photography...or is it?

I found a FB group the other day whose title appealed to me: 'Traditional Film Photography'.  So I applied to join and suprisingly I was accepted.  But now I'm left feeling more than a bit let down.  Yes this is a group dedicated to those who use film.  So far so good, eh?  But wait, 99% of the posts are from scanned negatives which are then processed digitally before upload.  I've seen very few scans of 'wet prints' and I'm disappointed. I just don't get this hybrid approach - why would you go to the bother of using film to capture the subject and then switch to digital for the 'printing'?  I mean, where's the skill in that?  In tweaking a few sliders on an app designed by someone else?  Come on.  This just can't compare to darkroom work.

I know you can't expect the same volume of images uploaded if you do darkroom printing (hence the low number of posts on this blog relative to other photography-related blogs), but that's just the nature of the thing.  Sometime less is more, right?

Anyway, this particular group has over 10,000 members.  Wow.  That's a lot of people using film which is great, as it will help film will be around a while longer.  But I just don't care for all those digitally processed images - even if they are from film negative scans.  Give me a silver print anyday - that's what I call traditional.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Bann Estuary

There's a great walk starting at Portstewart Strand (No. 5, to those in the know ;) over the dunes, alongside the golf course and towards the Bann.  This would be view starting out:

Portstewart Strand, looking towards Donegal
I know my horizon isn't level on this one - just tilt your monitor or head and it'll be fine.  After a decent hike over the dunes you might end up here:

Bann Estuary, towards the west
Most times you can then walk alongside the Bann towards the Barmouth before cutting back inland over the dunes and coming out on the Strand about No 14.  Sometimes though the tide is in and this bit you see above is impassable, in which case you have no option but to turn inland and head back over the dunes again.  The Bann is at its widest here - a huge expanse of river, populated with Herring & Common gulls and lots of Cormorants.  On the other side is the RSPB hide and from there you can get all sorts on the mudflats: curlews, red-shanks and other wading types as well as ducks.  This side you mostly get driftwood.  It's a very peaceful area - sheltered from the wind and sea and quite beautiful.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Seashore after the storm

Today we have Portballantrae, or rather the Blackrock Strand to be more precise - or the Bushfoot Strand if you prefer.  'Twas a stormy day about a month ago and the beach was full of seaweed and stuff washed up by the waves.  Beautiful day, actually - and no-one else around to spoil it, just me and the Dog-Hound-Thing.

Blackrock Strand, Portballantrae
I know, I know - this is a poor print.  Wonky horizon and what's going on there on the top right?  And I burned in the sea&sky by 1/4 stop, probably slightly too much - those waves could be whiter.  Some days it just all goes wrong.  But on the plus side I like the effect of the strong sunlight on the seaweed in the foreground.  FP4+ on FS RCVC Oyster paper in brand new WT-10 developer, selenium toned if you are interested.  I might come back to this one another day, although I find it hard to go back to negatives unless I'm really excited about them - and that doesn't happen that often for me...

I think the main problem with the last couple of films is my developer was past its best - the results were low contrast negs which no amount of coaxing has managed to breathe any oomph into at all.  But that developer has gone now, so it's on to fresh (ish!) DD-X for the next few rolls and we'll see what gives.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Cows in the Mist


OK so it hasn't the same caché as Gorillas in the Mist, but we don't have gorillas in the fields, only cows - or cow, in this case.  This one was snapped one morning last week more or less from our front door - isn't she a beaut?

Misty Morning Cow, 2014 style
Cows are strange animals at the best of times.  Always look like their legs aren't strong enought o hold them up - at least that what it looks like to me.  Mostly very docile these ones are - even the Dog-Hound-Thing doesn't upset them that much when he makes a run for them.  Luckily the post and wire fence keeps them apart.  But when cows are riled there ain't much that will stop them.  A few years ago the farmer (David Cameron - but no, not that David Cameron) didn't get to give them their high energy feed one day.  Not a good move.  They spied some lovely green grass across the stone wall separating the field from Mother's garden and next thing we knew they were up and over the wall to get to the grass.  Not much of the wall left after several tons of hungry cow went over it.  And the garden wasn't in great shape either, hoof marks everywhere.  But no-one was hurt except a few stones, so it was OK in the end.  Still, a lesson for us all, eh?  


I use Ilford under-the-lens filters and used a G4 1/2 for this one, but I'm still not overly happy with the contrast - should be snappier methinks, no?  Perhaps the developer is on the way out - I'm not great at keeping tabs on how many prints I've used it for.  I love using the Nova slot processor - I mean, I switch it on to heat up the chems and 20 mins later I'm printing.  No fuss.  But the developer has been in there for a couple of months now and although I have replenished from time to time I think it might be past its best.  That's my excuse anyway.  I know I could have tweaked the contrast in PS, but that would be cheating, right?  I do a vanilla scan with the Epson, re-size it and upload it, that's all I ever do.

Anyway, the darkroom is due for a major renovation any day now.  It's been in the planning for a while and now the time has come to install running water.  It means building a frame and then a plywood sink before the plumber comes in and routes some water half way round the house.  Someday soon.  Perhaps. 


Monday, 3 November 2014

The Bann, the Big Cut and salmon fishing


Under the bridge over the River Bann at Coleraine, as it looks in August 2014


Here we have the new bridge over the River Bann at Coleraine.  While it may look like the stereotypical shopping trolley was placed there as a prop I can assure you it got there without my assistance.  The white horse you might just be able to make out on the opposite bank, having a drink.  The bridge was opened in 1975 to cope with the increase in traffic which went along with the expansion of the town at that time.

The bridge is just a few hundred metres downstream from the famous Cutts, or Salmon Leap, which was of primary importance when Coleraine was being planned during the Plantation in the early 17th Century.  Here's an old photograph of my mother, looking rather stylish - taken sometime in the 1950s when she was a lass.  Must have been winter judging from the trees across the river near where Mountsandel Fort lies.  I must take a recent picture from here just to compare.  I've a whole series of 'then and now' photographs brewing in my mind - with a bit of luck I'll actually get round to doing something about that...

Mother at The Cutts, c1952

Around 1600 the River Bann was between 300 and 400 feet wide at Castleroe, and a huge rock of basalt extended across the river which rendered it too shallow to navigate.  It was decided to cut through the rock, primarily so that timber could be brought to Coleraine from the woods to the south.  "The Big Cut" was started in 1611, paid for by The Irish Society at a cost of £1200.  Several cuts were required to finish the job, and so we have the local term 'The Cutts'.  Interestingly, the main use of this part of the river after that appears to be for the catching of salmon, hence the alternative name Salmon Leap.   In one day it was reported that 62 tons of salmon were netted here.  Most of the stone removed was used in Coleraine for building - at that time no quarry existed close to the settlement and transportation of rock was expensive and difficult.  Early 17th Century export records for Coleraine show the value of the work done - Salmon exports from 1612-1615 were second in value only to Hides, with a value of £1118.

The Lower Bann and its tributaries including The Agivy and Moyola still offer some of the best salmon fishing in the country - catches numbering around the 450 mark for the last few years, although a mandatory catch and release policy is enforced nowadays.  The Honourable The Irish Society, founded in 1613, still have a presence at The Cutts and continue to maintain their interests throughout the whole of the county of Londonderry - they will sell you day fishing licences, for example, should you fancy outwitting a River Bann salmon.

It's years since I went fishing - my grandfather and uncle used to take The Brother and me manys a year ago.  Mostly we went to the Roe, near Limavady.  I remember a lot of tramping up and down the riverbank and not a lot of fish being caught, although it was a very pleasurable day out in the fresh air under Binevenagh.  Of course the term 'fish' was reserved for the King of fish, a salmon, and catching one of those was a rare event.  Mostly we returned home tired and maybe with a few trout if we were lucky, or even a plaice or two.  If no fish were throwing themselves at us Grandpa sometimes managed to liberate a carrot or two from the neighbouring farmer's fields - oops!


Some not very large trout, as caught, weighed, snapped and printed sometime in the 1970s

Grandpa, probably after a day's fishing, snapped and printed in the 1970s complete with period dust

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Road Racing

For some reason road racing is an integral part of our culture hereabouts.  There are a myriad of meetings which take place around the country during the spring and summer.  One of the largest is the North West 200, where young and not-so-young men (and women nowadays) hurtle round the roads connecting Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart at a high rate of knots.  The races take place on normal roads, complete with white lines, kerbs and manhole covers.  And alongside the roads you have the usual furniture of trees, lamp-posts, road signs, walls, pillars and houses. You can imagine the dangers - particularly now when speeds of 200mph are not uncommon on the straights.

When I was a lad, back in the late 1970s, the annual NW200 was a not-to-be-missed event and the camera was always present.  Sometimes we would head for the pits and other years The Brother and I would stick our heads through a hedge along one of the straights and practice our panning technique, hoping for the best.  Nowadays the public are kept well back from the racing and it's not so easy to get close, which is probably a good thing from a safety point of view.  Names from the past included the famous Dunlop brothers Joey and Robert, Frank Kennedy (also from Armoy), Tommy Herron, Mick Grant and Tony Rutter (whose son Michael is currently a very successful racer).

Road racing, NW200 style, c1979
You can see from the above photograph that wet roads were a not uncommon occurrence, which must have added to the adrenalin rush for the racers.  In those days the circuit went the full length of the Cromore Road to the Shell Hill - nowadays the circuit takes a shorter route over the Coleraine-Portrush railway line at University Corner.

Safety was sometimes less than optimum in the old days - the odd bale of straw roped around pillars and lamp-posts, if you were lucky.  Riders really did take their life in their hands.

Not much protection if you came off
The NW200 is a proper race - the riders all leave the start line at the same time.  Well, at times of course the excitement gets too much for some and they fall over before the race even begins:

Fallen over on the start line - D'oh!  c1979

Unfortunately many of the top riders from that era are no longer with us.  It's a very dangerous sport, both then and now, and several have lost their lives as a result of accidents.   1979 was a particularly bad year and we were unlucky enough to be close by when two bikes touched on one of the fastest stretches of the Cromore Road.  

1979
As you can see one bike is in flames and the local medics are rushing to help.  This is what a bike looks like after it's been engulfed in flames - not much left:

Burnt out chassis of bike
On better days we got to see some of the best road racing ever - two giants of the late 1970s were Mick Grant (number 10) on the green and white Kawasaki and Tony Rutter.  These were top riders and I can remember this duel well.  This was taken around the Primrose Hill area of Portstewart, just after the stop/start line.  You can just about make out both riders picking their spot for the next corner.

Mike Grant leading Tony Rutter, late 1970s.
Spectators were able to get real close to the action in those days.  Yes it's safer today, but some of the thrill has gone, to be sure.

All the above photos were taken and printed around 1979, by either me or The Brother.  FP4 was the film of choice then (and now) and either printed on Kodak Veribrom or Ilford Ilfospeed Grade 2 papers.  I know that as the prints have been residing in old paper boxes for the last 35 years, while the negs are still sitting in their glassine protected Paterson Sleeves.


Saturday, 25 October 2014

Iron Gates and Stone Pillars

Where I live, in the North West of Ulster, there's a lot of agriculture.  And cows.  And sheep.  Of course it wasn't always so.  Sometime around the 12th Century, when the Normans were in ascendancy, there was a move away from semi-nomadic clan life towards the creation of boundaries and, in turn, fields to demarcate small holdings, where tenant labourers could keep a cow or two and grow vegetables and crops.  Raised walls of earth were formed to make these boundaries, ditches were cut to channel water and raths were built to fortify dwellings.

On higher ground, such as the Antrim hills, sheep can still be seen wandering about the boggy areas, where turf or peat is still dug by hand (or hand and foot, to be precise) and few fields exist.   But the lower ground is largely made up of relatively small fields, even with the advent of modern farm machinery designed for larger areas.  Round these parts some crops are grown - mostly potatoes with the odd field of barley or corn, but by far the most popular use of land is to graze cattle, for either dairy or beef.  This makes sense, as our grass is very lush and green, what with all the rain and what have you.  Some fields are left entirely to grass, which is then cut for silage, to feed the cattle during the winter.

Drills for seed potatoes, c1977

Elsewhere in Ireland stone walls are used to separate field from field, but around these parts fields are mostly separated by thorn hedges - usually hawthorn, which is also known as may, whitethorn or just plain haw.  The common phrase heard every springtime is 'Never cast a clout till (the) May is out' - in other words, don't discard any clothes until the May has blossomed, which is usually around May-June time.    A wise saying, since our springs can be still very cold into early May.

But I digress, as usual.  The subject for today is our lovely vanishing gates and pillars.  Mostly these examples of old iron-mongery have simply rusted away and have been replaced by horrible galvanised vanilla gates, which have little character.  Unlike this one:

Iron gate and stone pillar, c1977
Now isn't this a beauty?  Cows and all in the background and a lovely pillar to boot! You can the problem - the stone pillar is falling to pieces.  This photograph, taken and printed by The Brother, c1977, shows a lovely 7-bar gate which used to be not too far away from home and is long since gone.  I like old gates and all being well you'll see a few more of them here in the future.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Zenit and Yashica

Here's one for all you camera-loving peeps.  Delving through my archive of old prints, I came across these stowed away in a box of Kodak 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" Bromesko WFL.2D paper.  The first is of my very first camera - a Russian Zenit B.  Built like a tank it was, coming in at nearly 2lb weight.  An SLR - Single Lens Reflex, which means you look into the viewfinder through the lens thanks to a series of mirrors housed in the prism.  M42 screw mount lens (58mm f/2.8), totally manual - no light meter!  And - remember this? - no automatic diaphragm!  You had to manually stop down the lens before pressing the shutter release - there was an 'extra' ring on the lens, just before the aperture ring.  So you set the aperture and shutter speed from the readings on your handheld exposure meter, focus with the lens wide open and then close the diaphragm before releasing the shutter.  Simple and effective, provided you remember to stop down the diaphragm, that is.

Zenit B - taken and printed around 1975.
Nearly a million Zenit Bs sold, apparently, and of course behind every camera lies a story.  The Zenit was my first foray into the art of photography.  If I close my eyes I can still see it.  It didn't have much smell, of course.  Talking of smells, it's amazing how opening a box of photographic paper in the darkroom can take me back 35 years - the smell is the same.  Now I'm not sure if it's the aroma of the black plastic pouch holding the paper or the paper itself (or both) but when I opened a pack last year - wham! - I was back in my youth, instantly.  Amazing what those olfactory sensory neurons can do to your brain...

I wish I still had it - the Zenith, that is.  Don't know where it ended up, but I guess ££ was tight enough in those teenage years so it probably got traded for something.

Now the question is begged, isn't it, what did I use to take this snap with?  Actually that's one of the questions I always had about the Apollo 11 moon landings - Who filmed Neil Armstrong walking down the steps?  But that's an easy one - there was (apparently!) an assembly attached to the side of the Lunar Module which housed the camera.  In the strange case of the Zenit photo above, it was taken using one of The Brother's cameras.  He had one of these:

Yashica TL Electro X, c1975

For some reason The Brother liked his Yashicas and as time progressed he spent his hard-earning cash from his Saturday job on a beautiful Contax RTS.  But at that time, around 1973, he had a TL Electro X.  Compared to the Zenit this was an advanced camera - it had a meter! A weighted TTL (through-the-lens) meter at that, so you metered the image that would end up on the film - weighted so that the bias was towards the bottom of the image and landscapes and the like wouldn't be overexposed due to the sky.  Lights, visible in the viewfinder, indicated whether the current settings would lead to over or under exposure and you could then alter the aperture or shutter speed accordingly.

This particular Yashica had a very advanced vertical metal shutter, unlike the horizontal cloth shutter in the Zenit.  It had a wider range of speeds - 1s to 1/1000 (vs 1/30 to 1/500 in the Zenit) and a hot shoe for flash (cold shoe for the Russian).  It came with a 50mm f/1.9 lens, a full stop faster than the Zenit's f/2.8 lens.

Both these are SLR cameras - that was important back in 1973.  I mean, why would you not want to compose your image knowing that's exactly the way it would be captured on film?  What exactly is the point of rangefinders??  Funny thing is, in 2014, I love my rangefinders (as well as my SLRs).  Rangefinders are smaller and tend to have brighter viewfinders, since you're not looking through a mirrored prism.  And you have frame lines showing you what will end up on the film.  And they are much quieter than SLRs, since there is no mirror to swing out of the way before the shutter is opened.  There are pros and cons for each and often it comes down to personal choice and what kind of user the photographer is.  And if like me you don't mind using old cameras, you can have several varieties for not a lot of ££.

If you're into film - as a lot of people are, for a variety of reasons - then you are limited in choice if you want a new camera.  I suspect this might change and we might see a few more manufacturers adding a film camera to their stable.  In 35mm, Nikon has their FM10, and Vivitar has similar, although both these SLRs are marketed as 'student cameras' and not as full systems.  In rangefinder land, Voigtlander have their Bessa R3/4 and of course Leica have their MP and both have a wide range of lenses and accessories.  In Medium Format there are new offerings from Fuji, Mamiya and Voigtlander again.  Then we also have the Large Format cameras and at the other end the Holgas and Pinholes.

Notwithstanding the sole offering from Nikon, for film to survive as a medium it might be that we need the weight of a big consumer manufacturer to enter the market again.  But for now I'm not sure they would get many sales - certainly not among the professionals who normally need instant feedback for a shoot, where you might have make-up, designers, models, wedding parties all present and you can't bring them all back if you mess up.  Most amateur photographers who are into film - like myself - are happy to use second-hand gear to scratch this particular itch.  This is great for buyers&users - the market for s/h cameras is huge and prices are reasonably affordable.  As of today there are still places you can get film cameras serviced.  We don't know if this will still be the same in 10 or 20 year's time - time will tell but it would be safe to assume that a lot of service centres will disappear in time.  Even now, the 'newer' old film cameras - the ones using electronics to control shutters and meters - are less able to be serviced at economical prices and so these are more of a gamble.  But since the costs aren't huge its a gamble perhaps worth taking, particularly if you get 10 good years out of one before they give up the ghost.

Whatever camera you use, people who use film are by and large very enthusiastic about it.  It's physical, you can touch it, hold the negatives up to the light and print them.  Your skillset is very different to that of the digital photographer.  There are several very active web groups for film users - including APUG, FADU and Filmwasters as well as ones dedicated to particular camera users which include film users, such as the Leica Forum.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Somerset


Somerset Coleraine, that is, not Somerset as in The Levels, King Arthur and this place, what I used to live near after I left here and before I came back here, if you see what I mean.

I like nature and I like trees.  These were captured on film in late August, on a Sunday afternoon stroll what is known as 'The Trim Trail', in the Somerset area of Coleraine.  Taken on FP4 and printed on MGIV if you're interested.

Somerset Trees in late August afternoon sun
The Somerset area has, like so many places around these parts, a bit of history.  To put it in geographical context, it lies just on the southern outskirts of Coleraine, just across the River Bann from the famous Mountsandel, or Mount Sandy if you prefer - you know, the place what dates from 7000BC and is one of the oldest human settlements found in Ireland.

During the Plantation of Ulster, in the time of King James I, the lands around here ended up in the ownership of the Merchant Taylor's Company of London.  The Somerset Estate, all 18,159 acres of it, was purchased from them in 1727 by The Richardson family, who originated from Edinburgh.  Fast forward a couple of centuries and the land was divided up, the Georgian House (which you can see photographs of here) eventually being demolished to make way for housing and a retail park in the 1980s.  The American firm Chemstand (later Monsanto) built a large facility here in the 1960s, manufacturing acrylic fibre. This was also closed and demolished sometime in the 1980s around the same time the retail park was established.  A bit of a metaphor for 21st Century UK Economy, really - out with manufacturing and in with shopping.

Anyway, today we are left with a pleasant woody area in which to walk.  There actually isn't much of the original 'Trim Trail' left (we're clearly fit enough in this part of the world) - now it's just a nice place to walk around for an hour or two.  Apparently the US Army had a base here during WWII, or so a very nice man told us during our Sunday stroll.  He was complaining about the overhead power lines, which stopped him using his metal detector in the area.  He had, believe it or not, been searching for hidden booty left by the Yanks, who were well known (apparently) for digging a hole and burying valuable consumables that they couldn't take with them - like barrels of whiskey.  There still are one or two old Nissan huts that we came across during our walk, so it seems feasible that the US Army were indeed here for a time.  As for the whiskey, we may never know, but it makes for a good story.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Ice cream, anyone?

Just a wee shot of Portstewart, from the lower Prom looking towards the harbour.  One of my favourite places.

Portstewart Bay
The seagulls are drying themselves on the rocks, the War Memorial is standing tall, not a sinner in sight.  All is well with the world.  I might have to get an ice cream...

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The West Strand

Took the Dog-Hound-Thing to Portrush the other morning to take the sea air.  Ended up under the railway arch in the West Strand, home to one of the many Blue Flag beaches around this area (and no, I didn't take the DHT onto the Blue Flag beach, before you ask).  The light was good, but the wind coming off the Atlantic was serious - had to be batten down the hat otherwise it would've ended up somewhere up in the Antrim Hills.

So, Portrush, or Port Ruis, if you prefer, meaning 'the landing place of the promontory', which is quite a mouthful.  Pieces of flint found along the coast from Portrush to Ballycastle point to human inhabitants in this area as far back as 4000 BC, which represents a fair few generations.  It started life as a small fishing village but in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries it was a popular destination for holidaymakers, largely due to the train line from Belfast, which opened in 1855.   Portrush will always have a place in history, thanks to the industry of a certain Mr W. A. Traill, a local gentleman responsible for the first hydro-electric system of public transport in the world, no less, which started in 1883 and ran from Portrush along the coast to the Giant's Causeway.  Sadly neither Mr Traill nor the tramline are with us any more.

These days Portrush still buzzes with holidaymakers in the summer which is great for the local traders and not so great for everyone else.  Best visited in winter if you ask me, when you've only got the biting wind and sleet for company.  Famous for Barry's amusements, The White House and the links golf course, which will host The Open in 2019.  More on The White House later, by the way - a department store with an interesting history.  Over 100 years old and going strong - how many business can say that?

So here is the West Strand in print.  Well, scanned that is - you know what I mean.  Now Mrs North East Liberties herself told me these photographs were boring.  I kind of know what she means, but there's an honesty about them which I like, so here they are - you can decide for yourself.

Portrush West Strand, looking West.  Donegal just visible in the distance
Portrush West Strand, looking East towards the town

Both snaps taken with a 35mm lens on 35mm FP4+ film, printed on MG IV pearl, just for the record.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Holy Trees and such

Here's another couple of prints from the Ballymoney walkabouts.  I was early for hydrotherapy the other day so had a wee dander around.  Just down the road from the hospital, on Rodeing Foot to be precise (Ed: Rodeing Foot - what's that about then?) lies Trinity Presbyterian church, all lovely stonework and everything.  As I walked past I spied a tree which spookily enough has 3 trunks, all Trinity-like and everything.  Nice, isn't it?

Trinity Tree in ground of Trinity Church, Ballymoney
Yes, I know, there's something not right with the foreground of this print - not sure what happened there, apart from sloppy darkroom technique, that is.

I wonder if the tree was encouraged to grow like that on purpose or did nature just decide...in any case, it looks just right growing as it is in the grounds of Trinity Presbyterian Church on Rodeing Foot in Ballymoney Town.

A bit farther down the road and then a right turn brings you to Meeting House Street and eventually to Ballymoney Train Station&Bus Depot.  Not usually a lot happening here but I liked this old building with its stone work.  An uncommonly long building it is, as you can see, which makes one think it must have been built for something in the large transport line of things - railway carriages or the like.  Unfortunately I know not what.  Anyway, here it is:

Ballymoney Transport HQ
I also had a walk over the new funky footbridge at the Railway Station and took this snapshot:

Arty snap overlooking Ballymoney-Belfast railway track

Yes I did feel like a first year Photography BA student.  And yes I know its printed asymmetrically - on purpose, of course...(Ed: sure about that?). And yes I know there's something not right with the right-hand-side of the print - I was having a bad day in the darkroom, OK?


Friday, 10 October 2014

Cows etc

We have a few animals who share their lives with us - some permanently, like the hens, rabbit and Dog-Hound-Thing, and others temporarily, like the swallows who visit every summer and the cows in the fields beside us, which come and go at the farmer's discretion.  We like it when the cows are in - they are beautiful big creatures, inquisitive and very alert. They watch our comings and goings very carefully.  Sometimes they have calves, which is lovely to watch.  They all crowd round to see the new arrival and give us dirty looks as if to say 'Keep Away', which we do as we don't fancy messing with a few hundredweight of live cows.  Here's a snapshot of the current crop, so to speak:

Inquisitive cows in the field
Yes I know I've lost the blacks a bit here - just think of it in the Salgado style.  The Dog-Hound-Thing loves the cows coming in too - he gets to be all protective of his family (i.e., us) and spends most of the day on High Alert, watching their every move.  If they get too close he'll bark like crazy and make for them, although the fence keeps them separated.  The cows just treat him with disdain most of the time, looking at him curiously.  Unless he startles them of course, when they give a buck leap (as my grandfather would have said) and lollop away to another part of the field.

Now here's a rare event - the DHT in stationary pose.  Usually he's the sort that never stands still - it's either full on running around like a mad eejit or flaked out asleep (and mostly the latter it has to be said, although since he's getting on a bit that's OK).

The Dog-Hound-Thing, in static pose at Portstewart Strand
This was taken in the sandhills at Portstewart Strand, which are just fantastic to walk.  It is reckoned that early StoneAge Irish-folk used to live in the sandhills, using nearby Tober Patrick (St Patrick's well) as it is now known as a source of fresh water.  It's a feast for the senses walking through the sand dunes - I can heartily recommend it to revive the spirits.

There's a (mildly) interesting story about these prints, for those of you enlightened in the ways of the darkroom.  I had some Fotospeed WT-10 developer in my slot processor which was about a month old.  No problem, I thought to myself, I'll just replenish it with about 25% fresh (at 1:29 dilution it's very economical) and it'll be good to go.  But it wasn't.  Every print came out murky, little contrast, almost green in tone and after a couple of hours I was getting disillusioned with my printing session and life in general, as you do.  But I washed the prints as usual and decided to see how some of them toned in warm Selenium.  And guess what?  They had an impressive shift in contrast after toning - pretty much back to normal.   Now I don't think I'll be recommending this course of action in future - I think this developer at 1:29 dilution is good only for a couple of weeks - but it is an interesting result.  Looking at the prints today the un-toned definitely have a greenish look about them - which might well suit some subjects.  And it could be an interesting diversion to see just how long this particular developer keeps active for.  But that's for another day.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Too late

Same old story - more 'improvements' means tumbling some of our historic buildings.  This time its our old friend the local Council, who decided in their wisdom to demolish some cottages in Portrush Harbour.  The harbour in its present form was built in 1827, although ships had been stopping at Portrush since the 18th Century to pick up any passengers brave enough to try their hand in the New World of the Americas.  By all accounts these journeys were not to be undertaken lightly - the conditions were cramped, food scarce and disease rife.  Many young and old died.  But clearly for many the risks were worth it - some 400,000 emigrated from Ulster to America in the 18th Century.

Anyway, back to the cottages.  These were used until very recently by local fishermen.  After asbestos was found in them (presumably in the roofs - corrugated asbestos was used before the 1970s) it was safely removed.  So far so good.  But no, the Council then decided that the most economic solution was to demolish them.  Now I daresay the cost-benefit analysis was carried out with due process and I understand they have a duty to the ratepayers - although where was this duty when the new council offices were built a few years ago?  To quote from their own website, "The reception area and Bann Gallery are lined in walnut. All of the walnut veneer used in the building was soured [sic] from one single tree. The tree was retrieved from a bog in the Gardens of Versailles in France. It dated back to the Napoleonic era and was particularly unusual because of its size."  And before you ask, this isn't the Council of Europe, or Westminster, or even Edinburgh...this is Coleraine, a long way from everywhere.  Enough said.

The local fishermen and harbour users wanted to keep the cottages and an article appeared in our local rag to that effect.  And a few days later I ventured forth to photograph same cottages.  And here they are:

Fishermen's Cottages, Portrush Harbour
Nice, aren't they?  Yes, I was too late.  Funny how quickly the Council can move to avoid any sort of protracted protest against one of their decisions, isn't it?   No doubt the replacement buildings will have lots of glass and concrete and may even win awards and all that, but just sometimes isn't it good to keep old things, in spite of the cost?

Anyway, to lighten the mood, here are some cute little boats I found in the harbour, oblivious to the wanton destruction going on around them:

Little boats
There were bigger boats too but I didn't photograph them.


Monday, 6 October 2014

Bushmills

Sorry about the lack of posting recently.  Had a bad week health-wise...as well as my ankylosing spondylitis, I have tinnitus which from time to time gets pretty bad.  Last week was a for instance, when it was all consuming and very horrible to live with.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I stopped off in Bushmills, or Portcaman as it was known in Norman times.  After the bubonic plague visited in 1348 the parish of Portcaman amalgamated with the parish of Dunluce (where the Castle is), which is just down the road a bit.  These days Bushmills is known across the world for this.  And to make that particular hard liquor requires water, which of course comes from the River Bush.  And since in the 19th Century the village prospered with water-powered industries we have the name it has today.

As I walked around Bushmills I found the old mill house (hard to miss in a village this size) but as it's now a private house with signs to that effect I decided it didn't warrant a snapshot in this little blog of mine.  That's the sort of executive decision I can take nowadays...

The river is beautiful though and the water has a distinctive rich, peaty colour (not surprising given its origin in the Antrim hills).  It enters the sea at Portballantrae, under the Three Quarter Bridge mentioned in a previous post.  Here's a little photo of it:

River Bush, at Bushmills
This might be nice shot with IR film, but as I only had FP4 that'll have to do.

I like Bushmills.  It's not that big but it's honest, no pretences.  Most people just drive through it en route to the Giant's Causeway but that's their loss and probably Bushmills' gain.   This row of older houses was interesting, although the shrubs got in the way.  I probably should have returned with some secateurs or something, but wasn't sure if that's allowed - don't we have to photograph what we see? Anyway, here they are, shrubs and all:

Some houses in Bushmills

I'm not sure yet why they are there - they're next door to the Old Grammar School, designed apparently by Clough Williams-Ellis (of Portmeirion fame), so they might have been connected to that.  Anyway, I liked them and hence they are here.  Like most old things around this part of the world no doubt they will be tumbled soon, so I captured them for posterity, as you do.


There'll be more of Bushmills to come I'm sure...

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Old stones

The weekends are pretty busy family affairs, what with my lovely, ever-patient wife, our daughter 'Matilda' and everything.  The 'everything' includes The Hound (our 9-year old border collie) our 5 hens and a rabbit which came to us un-announced and ended up being called 'Rooney van Ramsey' (don't ask, its a football thing made up by The Lad and Matilda).  The Lad is away working for BT this year, doing 'billing' and other important stuff while he takes a break from Uni, so he isn't around much at the minute.  Matilda likes a swim, as do I (good for General Fitness as well as the A.S.) - it's a bit of father-daughter 'bonding' time as well, which is great.   So no, I don't get in the darkroom much at weekends - although I did sneak a little 35mm film into a tank of Infosol3 at 1:14 dilution for 7 and-a-half minutes early this morning when the house was quiet.  The film is hanging in the 'drying cupboard' as I type.  With a bit of luck I might get something printed tomorrow.

The mild spell continues and this afternoon we headed down to Portstewart to see the craic.  Today, the last Sunday in September, was a Big Day in times gone bye.  Known as Chaghera Sunday, it signalled the end of the annual harvest and presumably that meant a rare day off for the labourers, and to Portstewart they would head.  The name apparently comes from a mix of Cookstown and Maghera, two county towns a good bit inland from here.  These days it means everyone drives their car along The Prom, takes the air, gets an ice-cream and generally has a good gawk at everyone else, as is the local custom.  One lap of The Prom and that was enough for us - too busy.  But Matilda enjoyed it, entering The Hound for the Dog Show (didn't win - are the judges blind??) and getting an ice-cream, so all is good.

So for your entertainment here is a print I made of some stones and some wood.

Rock Castle Salmon House, c1600
These particular stones form part of a little cottage in Portstewart which was used by salmon fishermen and dates from around 1600.  Well, I'm guessing the mortar doesn't date from 1600 and nor does the wood where the window would have been, but you get the idea.  Of course The Brother would by now be instigating a philosophical discussion about what it is that gives a building it's building-ness, or some such.  All you have to do to get him started is ask a seemingly innocuous question, such as 'What is a thing?' and he's off, although he'll usually start by informing you (non-too-politely, it has to be said), that that is the wrong question and you should be asking 'Why is a thing?'.  Several hours later and you're trying desperately to cling on to what is by now a distant memory of something - anything - that is real, tangible and understandable in what passes for 'your life'.  That's philosophy for you.

Anyway, this particular cottage-thing lies just in front of Low Rock Castle - famous as the birthplace of Field Marshall Sir George White VC, himself of the Siege of Ladysmith fame.  That house was tumbled only recently and has since been converted into a gated community of expensive town houses and apartments.  Gated community?  In Portstewart?  At least the Salmon Cottage remains, although all boarded up as you can see.


Friday, 26 September 2014

A lovely view

Continuing my coastal journey, on round from Dunluce Castle that was so well photographed in yesterday's piece, lies the seaside town of Portballantrae.  Bhaile being Irish for settlement and Tra for beach it isn't hard to work this one out.

There's still a small harbour there today, mainly used for local fishing boats and for pleasure craft in the summer, when the whole of the North Antrim coast gets very busy.  Best to be avoided at all costs during the summer months if you ask me.  Anytime from October to March (baring Christmas Day and New Year's Day when everyone 'takes the air') is usually OK - you've only the rain and biting wind for company, much more preferable believe me.

To the East of the village lies Blackrock Strand, accessed by the Three Quarter Mile Bridge over the River Bush - although it's nowhere near 3/4 mile long, seems more like 50 yards to me.  Still, that's the Irish for you, never much good at the auld Mathematics - except for this lad, he was pretty good now it has to be said.  Anyone who can read LaPlace's Mecanique Celeste (in the French, naturellement) let alone find an error in it (at the tender age of 17) gets my vote.  I used to dabble in the old sums a bit myself, a long time ago, before I found something easier to do.  But that's for another day.  Perhaps.

Anyway, I digress. The beach is very popular with surfers as some pretty big waves roll in from the Atlantic on a regular basis.  There's the "quare view" over the bay to the imposing Runkerry House, once the home of Lord Macnaghten, member of parliament for the area in the late 19th Century.  Not to be confused with the infamous 'Half Hung MacNaghten' - and that's another story that must wait for another day or I'll never get this one finished.  Runkerry House has since been converted into a series of apartments and town houses, as is the norm.  Still, it manages to provide a decent backdrop to admire from the eastern end of the village and there are several viewing opportunities for those whose legs, like mine, can't cope with the walking.  Hence our photograph today:

For admiring the lovely view, Portballantrae
You see?  Not just one bench, but two, and side by side at that.  And bolted down into a lovely big slab of Blue Circle for good measure so as no-one lifts them.  Still, gives you an idea of just how "lovely" the "view" must be, doesn't it?

I know, I must stop teasing you all (Ed: Ahem - who, exactly?).  And I will post the odd image of our majestic coastline that floats my boat, so to speak.  Once I've taken them and done something to them in the darkroom, that is.  Speaking of which, I'm off there now!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Dunluce Castle

One of the highlights of any coach trip along the North Antrim coast must be stopping off to photograph Dunluce Castle - a bit of a ruin, truth be told, but since it dates back to the 14th Century that's OK.  It's perched precariously on the cliff edge - indeed part of it lies in the Atlantic Ocean, having apparently 'dropped off' one stormy night in 1639.  Famously described as 'one of the most picturesque and romantic castles in Ireland', as you might expect there are a lot of photographs of it to be found if you go looking.  Sunrise, sunset, sunny, cloudy, misty, foggy, midday, midnight, even with the aurora borealis as the backdrop - yup, they've all been done.  You can even get an app about it.  Of course being a castle and being very old it has a fascinating history (with a ghost, of course) - more of that another time (maybe).

So there I was passing it the other day, having just dropped Matilda (as she will be known here) off to school, when I thought to myself I'd better stop and see if there is anything left to photograph here.  Being September and relatively early in the morning I reckoned there probably wouldn't be too many tourists about.  For once I was right - not a sinner about the place.  Keeping my eyes peeled as I drove down the lane leading to the car park I identified where might be a favourable spot to stand and point my camera from.  As I walked back down the road from the car park I half expected a shout from the obligatory coffee shop, informing me that the entrance to the Castle was in the other direction, but none came.  All was quiet as I approached.  Suddenly the sea mist seemed a little stronger than I remembered - an eerie silence descended all around and I realised with a shiver I was completely alone.  Slowly I edged closer, my senses heightened.  (Ed: Yes yes, we all get the message, you're about to take a photograph.  Edgar Allen Poe you are not.  Just get on with it for goodness' sake).

Oops, sorry about that.  Got a bit carried away there, as you do.  Well here it is: Dunluce Castle, my version (just visible in the background there).


Dunluce Castle
PS Don't get me wrong - there might be another photograph or two of this place in me.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Shelagh’s Head, Wishing Arch, Elephant Rock and Lion’s Paw

Around the coast from Portstewart and Portrush (just past Curran Head but before Dunluce Castle) we have an area known as the White Rocks.  A long sandy beach with a backdrop of Limestone cliffs which have been eroded over the years into a variety of shapes - some of which have been rather esoterically named as in the title of this post.

Now I'm not a great one for the classic landscape photograph of the North Antrim coast (as beautiful as it is), the like of which appear in their hundreds in coffee shops all around here, but sometimes your camera ends up pointing in a particular direction and before you know it your finger has twitched, the shutter has been opened for a fraction of a second, those silver halide crystals on the emulsion coated side of your film have begun to effect a chemical change and an image (albeit invisible) has been formed.  The good news is that after being steeped in some chemical solution ("developer") the resulting image is made visible and then made permanent and light-resistant by another chemical bath ("fixer").   If all goes well you might at this stage have a negative, from which, after washing and drying, you can make a print, as indeed I try to do from time to time.  Most times my negatives end up acquiring lots of dust and scratches along the way - which takes particular skill, I might add, in spite of my best intentions.

So on a good day I might take my negative into the room which has bin bags taped over the window and a curtain over the door, place it carefully in my 1970-something enlarger and shine a light through it onto a sheet of paper coated in some chemical or other.  This results in the image transferring itself (through the magic of light and chemistry) from the negative onto the paper - although it is not visible to us humans at this stage.  The paper is then washed in a developer solution which converts this image into something visible (more silver magic), and this can be made 'permanent' through a final fix, which converts all non-image silver into a soluble form that can be washed away.  And there you have it: the Silver Print...and what a thing of beauty is sometimes is.

Occasionally I might decide to steep the final (wet) print into a toning solution (e.g., tea, selenium, sepia) which will effect a chemical change on the silver image.  This might deepen the blacks and even cause a noticeable colour shift in the image, as well as making the image more permanent (if it doesn't end up in the bin, that is).

Blimey - I didn't expect all that, did you?!

And here we are...Ta-da! The masterpiece :)  FP4 on Fotospeed RCVC Oyster paper, Warmtone developer anf Selenium toned.  Was it worth it?  You tell me.


White Rocks, Portrush

PS Normal service will be resumed tomorrow, when I 'do' Dunluce Castle.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Postcard from Portstewart

I hope all is well at home.  Did I say already what clement weather we are having for the time of year?  It can be a little misty early on but the sun usually breaks through by mid-morning and the temperatures rise to a heady 60°F - uncommonly mild for September in this part of the world, I am reliably informed.  Portstewart is a quaint little seaside town with beautiful views over the bay.  Above the little harbour with its delightful array of boats I found our hotel - compact, bijou and full of authentic olde-world charm is how the local tourist office described it:

Our hotel, Portstewart
It may not look like much from outside but believe me it is positively Tardis-like inside.  The view from our balcony is usually something to write home about (!), but today of course the mist stayed somewhat longer than usual and hence the rather uniform greyness you can see.  Lurking somewhere behind all that grey stuff lies the majestic Atlantic Ocean.  If you look closely, just to the left of the main mast of our hotel you might be able to make out Malin Head, which is in Donegal and therefore administered by the Republic of Ireland, or just Ireland, or sometimes Eire, or the Free State, or the 26 Counties, or simply The South of Ireland, even though it's in the North, if you see what I mean.  It's all very confusing for a simple tourist like myself...

Well I must dash, dear and hopefully this card will catch the last post.  Besides which, the mâitre'd has just informed us that afternoon tea is shortly to be served on the terrace - all this sea air has given me quite an appetite! Toodle-pip!


Monday, 22 September 2014

Misty morning

Back to the woods - Mountsandel Wood to be precise.  Another misty morning and another moody tree scene for you.

A
B


Notice a difference?  There isn't much of a difference (even in the prints), but A has been toned in Selenium, B hasn't. Now in a double-blind, randomized control trial conducted here at home (!) 100% of participants (2) preferred A.  I'm not so sure - I think B might have the edge here - it's slightly colder in tone which befits the misty morning scene.  Both on Fotospeed RCVC Oyster paper in Warmtone developer.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Why?

Two posts in one day? I kind of wanted to explain, to myself at any rate, why I'm only showing scans of photos that I've printed in my wee darkroom and not scans of negatives or even digital.

My interest in photography started out in the 1970s when The Brother and I would head out over the ditches and hedges and snap away till out hearts were content.  And then came the darkroom which was great - all those chemicals to play with and maybe even a decent print at the end of it.

But along came University, involving a move away from the homestead, and then a career.  Photography became even more of a pastime and although I usually had a camera about it didn't get much use.  I have a lot to thank the rise of digital photography for - it got me interested again.  But I don't like the digital workflow - too much time spent at a computer, which doesn't suit my Ankylosing Spondylitis.  And I just don't get the same buzz from using an app such as Photoshop or Lightroom as I did from film and darkroom work, which is much more physical and involving.  So I persuaded Mrs North East Liberties to let me ring-fence a small unused room in the house and started building a darkroom.  And what a wonderfully creative space a darkroom is.  I love working with the chemicals again, the smell of the paper as you open the box and the feeling of accomplishment when you handle the prints at the end of a session.  It's so much more rewarding than digital - well for me it is, anyway.

Now I know it doesn't really make sense to have a digital blog and then not upload digital images, or even some hybrid scheme using scans of negatives.  But I fancy keeping this place sacred to the printed negative, even if I have to scan the print in order to upload it and show it to all my readers haha.  The downside is that it's more expensive to print than scan (once you have a scanner that is). And of course it's more time-consuming, so there'll be fewer blog posts than if I was posting digital images.  But if you keep the prints small (e.g., 5x7) it's not that expensive and it's just a very enjoyable activity.

It's also good to have a few prints dotted around the house.  With digital I rarely printed any photographs.  With film, I print a lot and so the walls are gradually getting filled with the results of my darkroom efforts.

You could of course argue until the cows come home (Ed: Eh?) about the 'quality' of film vs digital - and many people do.  Well I'm not too bothered about that particular argument - while it's important if you're a Tim Rudman or a Michael Kenna but for me that's not an issue.  I like the look of film and I would say I prefer the look of film to digital - although with digital filters like Silver Efex it's not always easy to tell the difference.  I would also say that I like the acquisition of skills acquired in the darkroom - from printing to toning.  As I said earlier, it's a much more physical and involving activity than the digital workflow and it's nice sometimes to think you are involved in an activity that harks back to the birth of photography, which went hand-in-hand with printing for many decades.

So there we are. For now I'm keeping this blog 'print-based only' - let's see what happens.

The Brother

There'll probably not be too many people appear on this blog, but here's one, or two to be precise.  This is The Brother and his minder, walking along our very own Portstewart Strand in July, when the sun was visiting.  Actually that particular day there was a bit of a fog coming in between us and Donegal.  FP4 in DD-X would seem to have got that about right by the look of things in this print  - on fresh Fotospeed RCVC Oyster paper via WT-10 warmtone developer.  Very fast paper this by the way - more than twice as fast as MG IV at the same grade.  I also gave it a few minutes in warm Selenium toner.  I had expected more of a colour shift in the lighter tones than I got - need to read up more on dilution strength and times.  I'm pretty happy with the result in any case - the contrast has increased very subtly.

The Brother and his minder
The quizzical look comes with the territory for the brother - he's very good at asking questions, not so good at answering them.  Well, maybe that's a bit harsh - he is, when all's said and done, outstanding in his chosen field.  Now usually round these parts that would mean a field of Dunbar Standards, or some other variety of potato (well, we are in Ireland) but in his case that means existentialism, Aristotle, Nietzsche and others of a general philosophical persuasion.  His minder, on the other hand, is very good at making large ice-creams disappear as well as getting the pronunciation of English words and phrases totally wrong.  She would dispute the latter, but as she's back home somewhere in mid-west USA I can get away with it on this occasion.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

AWOL

(Ed: No sign of yer man today.  He's been holed up in his dark room ever since that delivery man came with a big box of stuff yesterday.  All I can hear is water running, silence, fissling of paper and from time to time an exclamation, although not in any language that I am familiar with.  No food or drink has entered (or left) the room all day.  Most likely he'll be back tomorrow as if nothing unusual has happened.  No explanation will be offered, of course - and none sought either, not after the last time.  In the meantime all I can lay my hands on is this print, which I retrieved from the bin when His Nibbs wasn't looking).


Wasted paper

Friday, 19 September 2014

Not working


The legs aren't working too well today - probably on account of all the metal, ceramic, screws and chicken wire holding them to my pelvis, or else it's just my ankylosing spondylitis playing up.  Either way I'll not be doing much today apart from a few gentle stretches to loosen things up a bit.

So for your amusement here's a couple more posts from my little trip up the Ballymoney Line the other day.  I liked this - window-box, Ballymoney style.  Unfortunately something happened in the darkroom that shouldn't have happened, hence the rather extreme white cloud thingy encroaching from the left.  For the technical-minded darkroom afficionadas among you the contrast filters must have been knocked out of position by someone (Ed: Hmm, I wonder who...).  But hey, I'm no Michael Kenna.

Window box, Ballymoney style

A wall in Ballymoney


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Cow Town

Got to wander around Cow Town the other day, or as it is affectionately known in these parts, Ballymoney.  Very friendly people in Ballymoney, although not too many about at 6.30 in the evening - probably at home having their tea.  And no, before you ask, I didn't see any cows.  Saw these guard cats, though.  Clearly doing a good job in front of the local barracks, or whatever that place is.

Guard cats in Ballymoney

I quite like this photograph.  It might be a contender for 'Photo of the Month', what with the yard brush and gas canisters as well as the cardboard box, which is probably home for the cats.

Ballymoney is a lovely little town with an interesting history photographically.  Once was the manufacturing centre for Corfield cameras, which was in fact the only company to manufacture cameras in Ireland, ever!  But unfortunately the business, which had moved from Wolverhampton in the 1950s, couldn't compete with the Japanese and production didn't continue past the 1960s.  Still, the local museum (which is well worth an hour of your time next time you are passing through) has acquired a few example cameras, lenses and accessories and a nice wee story it makes too!

Charlotte Street, or Piper Row if you prefer
I like the look of Charlotte Street in the town (or Piper Row as it used to be called), so here's a print for your eyes only, complete with meteor shower (sloppy darkroom technique, many apologies won't happen again...much).  A nice row of older houses, with a modern car thrown in for free (but no satellite dishes!).  Here is what it looks like in a balmy September evening, with the temperature hitting a very unseasonal 60°.  I'll be back here in a month or so when the coal fires are burning as I think it might make an interesting little photograph.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

No news

Didn't manage to get printing yesterday - was feeling somewhat fatigued to be honest after a dander about in the morning along the banks of the River Bann.  We're having some very clement weather right now for this time of year so it's nice to take the air.  Instead I thought I'd write a little about my plan for this place. (Ed: What's that? He's actually got a plan? That's a first then...)

Ah yes, the name.  Where we live used to be part of the North East Liberties of Coleraine, a divisional barony created in 1584 during the creation of the County of Antrim (although it was later moved into the new County of Londonderry).  More of that to come later but we quite like the term North East Liberties - evokes thoughts of freedom, separation, independence and all that. 

So the basic idea is to record my musings as I wander about in what is the early part of the 21st century, reflecting on my family&friends and our local culture.  All being well there'll be the odd photograph or two - mostly snapped by me on one of my little collection of film cameras and printed in my wee darkroom.  No digital stuff here by the way - apart from the necessary to get the images on here (which will therefore be warts, dust and imperfections and all).  And not much colour either, strictly monochrome!

Arthur, somewhere on the Bann, 1977

OK, couldn't go without leaving you something.  This is Arthur.  No longer with us, Arthur was a skilled craftsman when it came to working with wood.  And he liked to fish too, hence the boat which took us down the River Bann manys-a-time when I was a spotty youth, although I remember more fishing than fish, to be honest.  He's looking very bemused here, probably since he was having an OM-1 loaded with FP4 pointed at him by yours truly.  Taken in 1977, printed 2014!