Monday, 19 December 2016


Another view of Fair Head, from the Antrim Coast Road this time.

Nikon/HP5+/ID-11...plenty of grain in this one.  Not many trees around this part of the world - on account, no doubt, of the prevailing winds.  Sheep minding their own business, just getting on with the munching thing, as they do.

Thursday, 15 December 2016


A wee moment in time, as those snaps usually are, of course.  Here she is, at her homework.  Note - the writing on the back of the hand, the earphones plugged in, phone nearby and music on.  I don't know about that last thing, actually - I need silence to concentrate, but I know that a lot of others like a bit of background music, Missy included.

On the Nikon, HP5+ and ID-11.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Getting there

OK So my wife finally got released from hospital last night.  Sometimes I wonder about these surgical types, I really do.  What we get told and what the letter to her doctor says are, how shall I put it, somewhat different.  However, she's on the mend and that's the main thing.

A photograph, from a while ago - they're all from a while ago at the minute, truth be told.

Portstewart Strand - but then you knew that already I think.  I kind of sat on this one a while but looking back at it I've decided I like the lines in it.  Now that's a typical Northern Irish sort of sky, it has to be said.  At any time of year.  On the Square-Cam, via HP5+ and ID-11.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Fingers crossed

Not much happening here, on account of Mrs NE Liberties being hospitalised again, 2 weeks after the operation to remove her gall bladder.  Tricky things to extract, it appears.  On this occasion there was a small bleed from the liver, which can happen, we are informed.  They got the bleeding stopped OK during the procedure, but some of the blood is now sloshing around where it shouldn't normally be and this blood has now got infected.  Which has also caused problems with her lungs.  In hindsight they might have been better doing the procedure in the traditional way, rather then laparoscopically.  But anyway, we have to deal with things as they are now.  In spite of being in hospital since Friday last and being on IV antibiotics, pain relief, nebuliser there really hasn't been much material change in my wife's condition.  Temperature still high, as are pain levels.  They won't put a drain in due to the proximity of the blood to some fairly important organs, so we have to be patient.  Which is all well and good for the rest of us, not so good for my wife.

Still at Ballycastle, looking East.  An unusual snap for this part of the world - no clouds.
So I'm in charge at home again.  And that means little time for anything photographically-speaking.  So it's the odd snap now and again until things get back to normal - which will hopefully be soon.  Fingers crossed.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Fair Head

Fair Head, as seen from Ballycastle:

Not sure what the line is going across this snap - could be a power cable, could be a scanning thing.  Dunno.  I didn't notice it when snapping the snapper-thing...probably too worried about getting something interesting on the shot.  D'ya like the arty-sculpture thing?  Pretty good, I reckon.  Sympathetic to the surroundings.  
So, in the distance there is Fair Head, aka Benmore, or An Bhinn Mhór, if you prefer your placenames in Gaelic.  Which means, I am led to believe, The Big Peak, or Big Tip.  Sounds about right to me.

The other name, Fair Head, has a typically Irish bit of folklore attached to it.  The story goes something like this.  Once upon a time, on Rathlin Island (just across the water from Ballycastle) there lived a young girl of great beauty, with long blond hair.  As is usual, she caught the eye of two young men, who both wanted her hand in marriage.  Naturally enough, there wasn't much love lost between them and at a feast on the island their hatred turned to rage. A fight ensued.  Some time later, one was mortally wounded and as he lay dying, he made his supporters promise to extract revenge.  The victor called for music and dancing, to celebrate his forthcoming betrothal.  One of the dead man's friends swept the young lady up in his arms, twirling her around to the music.  Faster and faster they danced, closer and closer to a cliff edge until he flung her over the cliff into the sea.  Her body, so the legend goes, was washed up at the foot of the cliff now known as Fair Head.

Whatever it's called, there it lies.  You might recall seeing it before, from Rathlin - albeit some time ago and from a different perspective.

Friday, 2 December 2016

On Club Competitions

I was interested in a post on Mr Karlsvik's site the other day, when he happened to mention about wasting film - in relation to his use of the Diana camera I think it was.  It got me thinking.

I do think, occasionally.  Recently with this Photographic Club thing I've been thinking a lot.  About competitions - yup, I know, the lifeblood of the Camera Club scene.  There are open competitions every so often (any subject) and there are the odd specialist competitions from time to time.  The next one is 'Textures',  There's also the Will McCrum Memorial Cup, which is all about portraits.  I doubt if I'll make that one, though, since the deadline is early next week and I'm really not organised enough to get a print to Belfast in that time.

Down by the sea in Portstewart the other week.  Pretty calm, it was.  The Square-Cam, on HP5/ID-11.

As I said, Mr Karlsvik's post got me a-thinking.  I'm not wasting as much film as usual these days.  Has this, I wonder to myself, anything to do with the Club Thing?  All I'm thinking about these days is 'Textures'.  OK so a bit of a challenge and focus can be good, but not if it's all-consuming.  And do I really want to go down the inter-club competition route at all?  I mean, does the whole thing just get too competitive then? Perhaps that's the point!  I'm comfortable doing the FADU monthly print exchange - I mean, there's no competition there...I send off a print of anything that I like, get some supportive comments posted online and do the same with a print I receive from another member in the post.  All very friendly and it gives you a gentle nudge to get printing something every month.  Maybe that's all I want.  Maybe that's all I need.

I dunno.  All this competition melarky.  I see from comments on the Club's FB page how some people react to getting a 'Starred Print', or 'A Mention'.  Fair play to them.  I've lived long enough to know that the real competition is with myself - hence the low standards you see on this place.  So I'm not sure how this will play out - probably I should just shut up and get on with it, grow the skin a bit thicker maybe.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Fruit Shop

Ballycastle, on the North Antrim coast of Ulster - you know, the place where you get the ferry to Rathlin from:
The Fruit Shop, with Holy Trinity Church in the background, sometime in the early autumn of '16.  Note the strong shadows and clear sky - most unusual.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Hanging around

So, back in Portrush we are in the piazza.  Well, OK, maybe not exactly en par with an Italian Piazza, but nevertheless it's a public space with interesting shapes and what have you.  A grand place to hang around with a camera.

Via the Nikon/HP5+, 50mm lens with a yellow-green filter and an old Epson scanner.  The old clock tower of the railway station in the background.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Churchyard stone

Another one I've posted before, but this time via lith developer and Slavich Unibrom paper, with a mild sepia tone:

Gravestone in Killowen Churchyard, Coleraine.  The print appears slightly more contrasty than the scan, to my eyes anyway.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Winter is here

Winter is definitely here in The Liberties.  Minus 4 here this morning, which is a pretty low temperature for us, being so near the coast.  Although it's rather lovely out - dry and bright with no wind - it's not my favourite time of the year, since I'm none too steady on the old legs.  A few friends of mine who also have AS have ended up with neck fractures after falling on ice&snow, so extra care is required when the temperature drops below freezing.

But life goes on.  My wife has had her gall bladder successfully removed and is recovering at home, while I pretend to be in charge.  It's prize day today at school and Missy is very nervous - worried that she might trip and fall while walking across the stage to collect her certificate and book token.  I'm sure she's more excited about the book token than the bit of paper - she's a keen reader, too keen at times which means it can be hard to get her raised from her bed in the morning.  Ah well, it could be worse, as I keep telling myself.  Long may it continue.

I liked the soft light and shadows on the tree trunk the other day - but failed miserably to notice the post sticking its head up in the background. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

I Surivived

Well I survived the Camera Club evening.

I took along a few prints, on different papers so as the audience might get a feel for what this thing is up to.  Some regular resin-coated stuff, some fibre, some toned and some lith.  Some from FADU Print Exchange and some from Roy Karlsvik.  I wasn't sure what to expect by way of feedback/interest - I got a couple of questions about different papers and 'what camera was used here' but that was about it.

And I took along a developing tank, a couple of reels and a few exposed films so people could see how easy it is to load a reel in the dark.  Well, mostly it is, provided everything is clean and dry.  But when it goes wrong, as we know it can do from time to time, it can get quite stressful.  Best I find to dump everything in the tank, close the lid, go for a cuppa and start again sometime later.

The view from the wee houses in Portbradden that I posted in a snap yesterday - looking out across the North Channel towards Rathlin Island in the distance.  A lovely wee spot to find yourself in.  Portbradden is from the Irish 'Port of the salmon' apparently.  We didn't see any salmon that day, unfortunately.

I took along a few cameras - a couple of point-and-shoot charity-shop finds, the old 6x4,5 Zeiss (another charity shop find) and a rangefinder (no - not that rangefinder, the Yashica GTN.  You know - the one that the back keeps springing open 'cos some-one (cough) put the wrong felt in when re-doing the seals a while back and never got round to sorting out.  It's on the list - promise).  And I took the Nikon N80.   I decided that the Franka was just too delicate, the German Rangfinder just too expensive and the FM3a was just too nice to take along.  And the recently-acquired Square-Shooter was just, well, too new.  Plus, I would still like all those to work for some considerable time.  In the end there weren't that many people there - perhaps 20 in total and it was all very informal.  As to be expected there were lots of oldies like myself who had used film in the past - quite a few still had cameras sitting in lofts etc.  But it was clear that a lot of members simply stayed away - for last week's talk on Aurora chasing the place was packed out, maybe 50 people.  "Auroras are interesting, film photography isn't" I guess is the lesson for this week.

I took along the 'Field' camera - the Sinar.  Not that I'm an expert on large format photography by any means but I can get by and I thought the good peeps from the Ballymoney Photography Club might appreciate seeing a proper camera for once.   So I built it up 'live' and invited people to inspect the ground glass and get a feel for what the whole LF thing is about.   I introduced it as 'the perfect antidote for those of you who feel it's just too easy to come home with a few images too many after a day out with the camera'.   I think they got the picture, so to speak.  Let's face it, you are never going to come home with too many large format images no matter what the occasion.  Actually it garnered a lot of interest and quite a few people remarked how it was great to look through the ground glass, the clarity of it and being able to use both eyes (I have a binocular viewer for it - not reflex, just straight so you still see a reversed, upside down image).

It appears the club has one other darkroom user - Freddie, who brought along some kit (including a lovely Mamiya C330) and some nice big prints.  He's been gradually moving to digital, though, and I got the impression his darkroom might not be in use for much longer but at I'm happy there's at least one other guy who for now at least still enjoys this sort of play.

It'll be interesting to see how the whole club thing plays out over the next few months.  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016


The other day Mr Karlsvik over there in Norway was writing about camera clubs and stuff...wondering whether or not to sign up and to which one.  I was a member of the local club here in The Liberties in the 70s, when I was a spotty youth.   To the best of my knowledge it folded more than a few years ago.  But now there is another one on the go and it seems to be going strong by all accounts - it's a member of NIPA, the Northern Ireland Photographic Association.  NIPA runs competitions and generally supports the work of the clubs around The Province.

Like most clubs the prevailing wind is digital photography and that holds little interest for me.  I did digital for a few years but just didn't enjoy the workflow - all that sitting in front of the computer, editing pixels and stuff left me cold.  I really enjoy the physicality of film photography and while I love me cameras and stuff I seem to get most enjoyment in the darkroom side of things - probably as that's where the magic happens, I guess.

Out along the Antrim Coast, just past the Giant's Thingmy.  A good spot for a wee house, sheltered from the prevailing North-Westerleys by a big lump of rock.  Portbradden, I think it's called.

Anyway, I was up by Mountsandel Wood the other day with The Hound and was just returning to the car when I noticed a guy with his foot up on the car boot lip, stretching his hamstrings getting ready to go for a run.  His car was sign-written and I realised this was the guy who runs the aforementioned local camera club.  He looked approachable so I couldn't just Walk On By, as the song goes.  (I've always liked this version - it takes me back to me youth).   So we chatted for a bit and I told him I'd looked at the club's guest speakers last year and it seemed to be mostly digital and blah blah blah.  Anyway, to cut a long story short, it turns out that on the 22nd November there is a 'Traditional Film Photography' night planned.  You'd be correct in thinking 'That's tonight'.  Next thing he's asked me if I would like to come along and speak and well, I couldn't very well turn him down, could I?  So later this evening I'll be at the Sperrin Club in Coleraine, flying the flag for 'Traditional Film Photography'.  Wish me luck.

That phrase always gets my attention...traditional this, traditional that.  It's like our local chippies - it's always 'Traditional Fish n Chips'...never 'Contemporary Fish n Chips'.   Surely to goodness there are other liked-minded people in The Liberties who don't actually like soggy chips cooked in weeks-old oil and fish batter that isn't crisp.  Actually when I think about it, they all seem to do a roaring trade, so maybe it is just me...

Monday, 21 November 2016


OK so I know y'all have seen this one from Castlerock beach before, but here's another version of it:

On Slavich paper, Moersch EasyLith developer

Last time you saw, it looked like this:

On Foma 131 paper, same developer.  It looks toned, but isn't.  Clearly much warmer than the Slavich and not really lith-like at all, by comparison.

Back to the Slavich paper, but with a sepia tone:

Friday, 18 November 2016

Sand, sea and sky

I got into the darkroom yesterday morning for a short printing session.  Some good, some not so good.  Not sure what category this one comes into, mind you.

Portstewart Strand, sometime last week

I was doing some lith work, using the old Moersch Easylith stuff.  20ml of A, 20ml of B and about a litre of warmish water (25 degrees or so).  And a new paper for me - Slavich Unibrom.  What came out was very different to the only other paper I've tried with lith, the Foma MG131.  The Slavich came out very neutral to cold and with a much more pronounced lith effect.  If it sounds like I know what I'm talking about, I don't really - I've only played with this stuff a handful of times.

I must admit though I'm really liking the Slavich paper with this developer, even though I probably over-cooked this one somewhat.  Came up on me rather quickly, it did.  Next step is try a little tone with it, to see what happens.  All good fun.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Here's looking at you, kid

Here's one of the wee beasts in the fields beside us, snapped up a couple of weeks ago in the early morning light:

Good open Ulster farmland all around us, dotted with the odd wonky electricity pole and mobile phone mast. On HP5, via the Nikon/50mm.
I don't think the animals will be with us for much longer, since they've eaten pretty much every blade of grass in the fields.  The other day I caught them massing at the end of our garden, looking very closely at the grass in our lawn.  It wouldn't take much for them to trample down the wire-and-post fence, mind you, if the notion takes them.  And it wouldn't be the first time that has happened, either - a fair auld mess ensues, I can tell you.  Hopefully they'll be moved into a nice warm shed sometime very soon.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Seat with a view

Snapped up on Ramore Head, Portrush the other day - a seat with a view.  Not just any old view, mind - that would be Benbane Head there in the distance, where the Giant's Causeway lies.

Annoying when you get the print in your hand and notice that you failed to spot something strange going on - as in the 'feature' on the right hand side of the print above.  It's not on the negative, so not quite sure what's going on here. That's the trouble with the darkroom - there ain't much light in there.  On Kentmere VC Select.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Monday, 14 November 2016

Ash tree

I snapped up an ash tree the other day - the one that lives at the bottom of the garden, near the compost heap.  It was looking a bit naked, after the few windy days we've had recently.  It's fair to say that winter is approaching - more often than not the days are damp, dark and a bit miserable.

There was nice light around last Sunday so I took a wee dander about the garden and pointed the camera skywards for a change.  Printed on a new one for me, Ilford MG Art 300, which is a very nice paper to hold in the hand.  Lovely textured eggshell surface, it has.  Not the cheapest on the block, mind, so it's not an everyday paper.
We have a lot of ash trees around us in The Liberties.  The females are the ones with seeds, of which there are usually thousands, which hang in big brown bunches at this time of year, not quite ready to drop just yet. Every year I pull out loads of little ash tree-lets as they take root all over the place. And boy are those suckers hard to get out - even a 6-inch high treelet requires a fair old tug to remove it from Mother Earth.  Makes me wonder what the roots of a 60-foot tree might look like.

Friday, 11 November 2016


I actually got into the darkroom yesterday for a couple of hours.  Very enjoyable it was, too.

The new(ish) installation down by Portrush Harbour, with a nautical theme. The residents along Kerr Street weren't too happy with these fairly large structures when they appeared.  I think they're pretty impressive, but then I'm not living opposite them.  On HP5+, ID-11, printed on Kentmere VC.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016


Hard not to be more than a little surprised by voting patterns in 2016, both here in the UK and now in the USA.  I've just woken up to the Big News - President Elect Trump.  It's going to be an interesting few years.

Portrush - the old clock tower by the railway station just visible in the middle.  The 'piazza' got a make-over a couple of years ago and a pretty decent job was done, I have to say - lots of interesting lines and funky lights.  The sort of place you can walk around looking for some interesting patterns, if the light is right.  Which I will hopefully do, one day.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

A forest walk

We actually managed a walk in the forest last week, during half-term.  Very nice it was too, up by Mountsandel Fort along the banks of the Bann.  There was as thick a carpet of fallen leaves as I ever remember - still pretty dry and very pleasant to walk on.

Hard to beat the country at this time of year.  At any time of year, really, when you come to think about it. I've done the city living thing, across there in England and while I enjoyed it well enough at the time I can't say I'm in any rush to get back to it.  On HP5+ via ID-11.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Not many left

Portrush Harbour last week.  Not many boats left, as you can see. It was a nice bright day, but with a cold wind.  The wind direction in The Liberties has shifted over the last couple of weeks and is now coming from the North, with associated drop in temperatures.  Still, with the right gear on it's not unpleasant - better than the rain, for sure.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Out of the mouth of babes...

About this time last year I acquired a camera that had been lying around The Brother's garage for a few years - a Nikon N80, complete with a Sigma 28-80 zoom and a part used (colour) film.  Recently I got round to putting fresh batteries in it and lo-and-behold when I put the switch thing to 'on' (What's all that about, then?) the thing came to life.  It's auto focus, has P mode (Program) as well as an S mode (Shutter Priority), an A mode (Aperture Priority) and an M mode (Manual, presumably).  There's an LCD screen and loads of other buttons dotted around -  it's one of those cameras you'd really need to read the manual if you want to know what they all do - not like the rangefinder, or the Franka, where you have about 3 things to fiddle with (focus, aperture and shutter speed).

Anyway, as we headed off for a forest walk yesterday I happened to mention to Missy that she might like to take the N80 with her and capture some of the autumn colours on the last couple of frames of the film.  She looked at the camera a bit sceptically and asked what she needed to do to use it.  I explained it was pretty much auto-everything and all she had to do was turn it on, lightly press the shutter release to focus and then all the way down to take the snap.  Her reply was interesting...'That's not a proper camera, then, is it?'.  She did take it with her but she elected to leave it in the car while we walked.  I didn't push it.

One of Missy's masterpieces, from the OM-1 and some Ilford film.

While it was a funny comment straight from the hip, it got me a little worried - have I brain-washed her with all my talk of film, f4 and 1/125th of a second?  I don't think so - I think it's just that she sees me use 'proper' cameras every day.  She uses her phone to take a lot of snaps, of course, like a lot of others her age do.  But from time to time, when the mood takes her, she'll dust off her OM-1 and take it out for some old-school.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out over the next few years - I'm looking forward to watching from the sidelines, deo volente.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Nothing much happening here, lots over there

Not much happening in The Liberties - it's half-term, so we're all taking a break from the routine.  I kind of like the routine, as it happens - but I seem to be in the minority on that one.  I mean, I still wake at the usual time (well, an hour earlier now the clocks have gone back) and so I'm up and ready for action...but there isn't any.  Missy is taking a well-earned rest - which she needs, so I'm loathe to annoy her too early in the day.

Most days I give The Hound a bit of exercise in the back garden, saving the planet a little by not driving to the beach.  Then it's more 'tidying up outside' before winter hits us - moving leaves from one place to another, taking stuff to the local dump, chopping firewood and so on.  I never remember so many projects outside as there are this autumn - must be the good weather.

Thatcher Woods, West Chicago. Taken 2 years ago when I visited The Brother for Thanksgiving.  Not sure I'll get back this year, maybe next year, if the £ recovers somewhat and the US still allows me to visit.  Interesting times over there in the States right now - I watched a short interview (Channel 4 news) the other night with a Democrat, a Republican and a kind-of Republican-but-undecided-whether-or-not-to-vote-for-Trump.  What was clear was the separation between the people supporting the two main candidates - there was a lot of anger and distrust in the air.  Whoever gets in come November 8th will have a heck of a job bringing the country together.  I wish them well.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Grand so

If you've ever spoken to a man from around Clonmany, in what is the North West of Donegal, you'll likely have heard him say 'Grand so'. A lot of times, for it tends to be said frequently in conversation with such a man.  It just means Fine, Great...OK.

I've been to Clonmany...not many times, it has to be said, but I've been there all the same. One main street is what I remember, with lots of public houses - like this one in Eniskillen:

Charlies Bar, Eniskillen, snapped a while ago.   A lovely part of the world, Eniskillen and the lakes around it - about a 2 hour drive south west of The Liberties.  Wonder what was in the newspapers that day, eh?

That's a funny turn of phrase in itself...public house. Anyone is welcome by the sounds of it. Grand so.

Friday, 28 October 2016

We need rain

There's a line you won't see very often on this place, I can tell you.  But seriously, we do.  I've been spending a lot of time in the garden these last couple of months - had a big project which has been hanging over me for a long time.  We had a small side garden, y'see, which had been allowed to 'run wild'.  Not wild as in a proper, planned, wild garden, the likes of which you might hear Charlie-boy drone on about with regard to Highgrove or some such palace.  No, we are talking wild as in a serious jungle of stinging nettles and not much else.

A grand sight - if you're standing where I was when I took this shot, it means you are on the ferry to Rathlin, just leaving Ballycastle.  And that, dear readers, is a Good Thing.

So, with the aid of Surely-to-God-Tony, as he has become known, the side garden has been tackled - strimmed, cleared, dug over, fruit trees (eating apples, cooking apples, damsons, plums) have been purchased and planted and grass seed sown.   I say sown, I mean grass seed laid out for the wild pigeons' breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Some seeds have decided to take root and actually grow, to be fair, but it's patchy to say the least.

I'm sure when the nettles re-appear next spring the bare patches will not be so noticeable.  Ah, the joys of living in the country.

There are many of these old winches dotted around the coast here in The Liberties - this one lies near Port-na-Happle in Portstewart.  Used for many years to bring in salmon nets - in the days when salmon were plentiful.  Nowadays out in the bay it's mostly lobster pots, which are brought in by boats like Lady Jade.

But anyway, since the grass seed was put down, I've been checking on it every day, as one does.  And it has been unbelievably dry since the start of September, so I've actually had to water the seed from time to time.  This is unheard of in The Liberties for this time of year.  Actually, for any time of the year, come to think about it.  And the ever-eloquent Mr Karlsvik over there in Norway-land has also something to say about the weather.  The ground actually needs rain.  It's mad.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Jar of Irish, anyone?

I can hold my own in the kitchen but most times it is Mrs NE Liberties that handles things in that department.  There was a time, not so long ago truth be told, when we added spices to pretty much everything.  Nowadays we seem to prefer plainer fare.

View from Castlerock sand dunes, looking over the mouth of the River Bann towards Portstewart.  Taken a while ago, using the rangefinder and no doubt some sort of Ilford film.  Did you notice how I used a slow-ish shutter speed to catch some movement in the dune grass there.  Ah yes, sometimes I actually think about things before I act.  Not often enough though, it has to be said.

Anyway, notwithstanding the above, the other night we had something or other and my wife told me she'd used a little spice from a new jar she had acquired.  I looked.  On the label was 'Middle Eastern...rub to marinade'.  It was pretty good, as it turned out - subtle, which isn't always the case.  But it made me smile a little to myself...I wondered if peeps over there in the 'Middle East' have a wee jar with a label on it which says 'Irish' on it.  I doubt it.

No, Ireland is a great source of good basic ingredients - particularly good dairy produce, beef, milk etc.  All that rain, all that pasture - good for the cows, y'know.

Number 3, on Portstewart Strand.  Number 3 marks the spot I would head up into the dunes, if that's where the notion takes me on a particular day.  After a bit of an up-and-down on the dunes I usually emerge again at Number 5.  Snapped on HP5 in a Mamiya 645 Pro TL, which I borrowed for a while.  Nice camera, but I didn't really gel with it - couldn't really get used to the handling.  I've read that adding a motor-drive grip improves things in that department, but that didn't seem sensible to me, since I don't need the auto-wind feature and it would just add more weight.

It's a very troubled place, the Middle East, these days.  Perhaps it always was.  I travelled a bit in that region in me younger days and boy am I glad I did then, because I sure wouldn't be up for it now, in spite of the beauty of that part of the world.

Monday, 24 October 2016


Its been a strange couple of months in The Liberties. Strange in that since the start of September it has been pretty decent weather, in sharp contrast to July&August, which were both pretty awful.  The last few weeks it's been mostly dry and - get this, not much wind.  Now that really is not normal for this part of the world and OK so we are getting some recompense for the poor summer but I can't help feeling we might end up paying dearly for this in the months to come.  We'll see.  Having said that I still have the waterproofs on in the mornings for the beach walk, since it isn't unknown for a sudden squall to whip up and when you are out on Portstewart Strand you are, dear readers, pretty exposed to the elements.  It doesn't take long for you to be soaked if you don't have the proper gear on.  So nowadays I don't even look outside before I dress in the mornings, I just put the waterproofs on anyway and then I don't have to worry.

An old one, but useful to illustrate just how perfect Portstewart Strand is at this time of year.  Not a sinner in sight, as my grandfather used to say.

And the trees are beautiful at this time of year, which almost makes me want to stick a colour film in a camera.  Almost.  But not quite - you'll have to use your imagination.  Most years we don't really get to appreciate the beauty of the foliage, since the wind usually has the leaves off by now and the rain has them turned to mush.

So I guess what I'm saying is that it's actually a lovely autumn we are having this year.

Friday, 21 October 2016

All my own work

Some more 'first frame masterpieces' for you.  These were taken out on Rathlin Island in August.

Looks like The Brother's torso has been speared by a light sabre - but he survived.
This was a very special roll of HP5+, as I rather cleverly managed to get light leaks on the first three frames.  This was the second one:

There's a few houses in need of a bit of TLC on the island - presumably left over from the 19th Century when there were upwards of 1000 people resident on the island.  Today there are just over 100. As I said to The Brother, here's a wee fixer-upper for you.  It would make a grand wee holiday home for him, living in the West Chicago 'burbs as he does.

By the third frame the light leak was almost gone:

View coming back from the Rue Lighthouse, towards Church Bay.

Perhaps I need a better system for me film cassettes.  For 35mm I tend to buy 30m at a time and load me own.  I like doing that, since it's easy to have a roll with just 10 shots in it if I want to try something different exposure-wise or processing-wise.  Usually I load about 25 shots per film, which seems to suit the way I shoot OK.  It means the film isn't lying in the camera too long,  I've a good relationship with a local high-street photo outlet who keep me any film cassettes they get in - not many, it has to be said, but enough for me.  Thing is, I tend to just re-use them without any care or thought about how many times it is safe to do so.  Perhaps the felt light trap in this particular cassette is toast - that might well explain why I've got the light leaks above.  I'll have to devise a put a mark on the cassette when I load it and then throw them away after say, 3 re-uses?  

Wednesday, 19 October 2016


You can see where they've blasted away the limestone rock to make way for the road - the road that leads to the car park at Ballintoy Harbour:

I'm not sure when this particular road was made, but the famous Antrim Coast Road, which wends its way from Larne to Portrush and which you drive along to get to Ballintoy, was constructed in the early part of the 19th Century.  In a similar way to this one we see here, by blasting through rock.  The surveyor for the Commission of Public Works in Ireland at the time was a Mr William Bald, a Scotsman.  Beckford's Patent Safety Fuse was a godsend, apparently, and helped reduce the number of accidents, which I'm sure were still numerous.  All in all a very impressive undertaking, considering the horse, cart and manual labour were responsible for moving the millions of tonnes of rock which must have needed shifting.  The cost in today's money was something like £370 million - I wonder if it would get built today, in these times of austerity?

I remember when I was very young, sometime in the late 60s or maybe early 70s, mum and dad had driven to Ballintoy for a 'day out'.  Probably it was a Sunday - that's what we did after church.  And, as happened frequently in those days, the car broke down.  No rescue service in them days, no siree.  Dad had to go find a house with a phone and call our farmer neighbour who came out with a tractor and towed us home...not before we told him how to get to Ballintoy.  Never heard of it, never been there was his story. It's wasn't that far away from us, about 20 miles.  But it was on the coast and a farmer in them days had no business going to such places.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Ballintoy Harbour

Picturesque Ballintoy Harbour used to be a favourite destination in the summer - it lies just past the Giant's Causeway on the Antrim Coast.  Nowadays famous for Game-of-Thrones filming, which of course means it's on the Tourist Map.  On a decent day in the middle of summer trust me, you don't want to be anywhere near it.

Looks like this was on the rangefinder with a 35mm lens, on HP5+ no doubt.  That would be Fair Head in the distance I reckon - some way past that gets you to Larne and then Belfast.
No, nowadays we get to Ballintoy very much out-of-season, when it's much more pleasant.  Must be time to go back there soon, I reckon.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Yer Man Manannán

OK so I more from Gortmore:

Manannán Mac Lir ('Son of the sea'), a Celtic Sea God from Irish Mythology (or a representation of him, if you want to get all pedantic about it).
I would suggest you click here for further reading on the matter.   A couple of years ago some hooligans took the first statue of Mac Lir and dumped him in the nearby forest, as they do.  Eventually, after an extensive search (a 'Missing Person' was apparently raised for him) he was found, but badly damaged.  And so a new, regenerated version now sits atop Gortmore.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Looking East

Last of the tripos from Gortmore - looking East this time, towards Portstewart, Portrush and The Giant's Causeway, way in the distance.

On a good day you might get a glimpse of Jura from up here - but too much cloud around today.  Not many folk about.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016


Another from our trip to Gortmore - looking West towards Binevenagh, a beautiful, table-top hill/mountain:

There's a pretty decent viewing point here from which to point your camera over.  Even though there's a stone wall you can't be doing with looking over it for too long, for there be a steep drop on t'other side.

In days gone by my grandfather would take us boys fishing down the River Roe, just under Binevenagh.  It was pretty special, even when few fish were caught.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


We drove up to Gortmore the other day - the viewing point near Binevenagh, from where you can look over to Inishowen and onto the plain that is Magilligan:

Looking down on Magilligan Strand and over the Foyle Estuary towards Donegal.  As you can see it turned out a pretty grey day without much decent light around - a big bank of cloud almost enveloping Inishowen.  It was lovely, though - not cold and not too windy.  In a couple of months time it will be very different, with the cold North-Westerlys trying to separate your head from your shoulders.

Monday, 10 October 2016


Evidence, should it ever be needed, that there was murderous intent in the house on Saturday night:

Notice the effect that pointing a camera has on people around The Liberties.
OK, so this time it was the bread that got cut - for jammy toast before bedtime - but next time?  Who knows...

Friday, 7 October 2016

St Thomas' Parish Church

St Thomas' sits on Rathlin Island - beside Church Bay, naturally enough.  It's a lovely little stone church, which has been here for around 200 years or so.

But that's not the whole story, since like most places in this part of the world a bit of history abounds.  No, there has been a church on this site since around the year 580, thanks initially to St Comgall of Bangor, near Belfast.

The oldest gravestone in the cemetery dates back to 1655.

As you get closer to it, you can't fail to notice four near identical gravestones near the roadside:

Buried here are 7 British sailors who died when HMS Viknor was lost in high seas in the middle of a heavily mined area off the Donegal Coast during the First World War, in 1915.  Of the 295 who perished, 7 bodies were washed up on Rathlin and only one was identifiable - Petty Officer J J Walton.  There are several other war graves in the cemetery.

The church is very simple inside - whitewashed walls and plain glass windows.  Lovely.

There was a small exhibition in the Church when we visited.  It was the story of another shipwreck - the Arandora Star.  A very interesting story, actually - World War II this time.  The Arandora Star was a troop ship which was sunk in July 1940.   On this final voyage her mission was to take Italian and German internees and German POWs to Canada.  U-boat 47 struck her with her final torpedo, which the U-bath captain thought was faulty, but clearly wasn't and the ship went down.  About half of the people on board died - over 800.

The Rathlin connection lies in the fact that two bodies were washed up near the West Lighthouse.  One had no identification marks but the other had papers to suggest he was a Giuseppe Capella, once waiter in the Savoy Hotel, London.   Both are buried in St Thomas graveyard.  There is a very touching story about Signor Capella's boyhood friend, Luigi Zazzi, who was last seen in the water with Capella.  Following some research by local man Michael McRitchie into the Italians lost from the Arandora Star who are buried all along the North of Ireland and West of Scotland, Signor Zazzi's grandson, who lives in New Zealand, got in touch with Mr McRitchie.  He had no idea that any bodies had been recovered from the sea and expressed comfort in the knowledge that the body washed up alongside Signor Capella just might have been that of his uncle.  The full story is here.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Dune walk

Portstewart Strand, up on the dunes.  Printed last night on Kentmere RC and given a quick wash in sepia.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016


The Very Talented Andrea across the water there on the Isle of Lewis has some pretty useful snaps of caravans which I have been admiring.

I took this snap some time ago in what passed for summer this year, when on Rathlin with The Brother.  You may recall that at the time I was commenting about the fact that when things wear out on the island they are parked up and left at the mercy of the elements to slowly decay.

I like the table out front - it looks like the owners were just setting up for lunch and popped down to the shop to get some the meantime the whole back end of the van has collapsed.  

I was also commenting about the new ferry which the island is getting - whether they need it or not.  I rather cleverly snapped up the two current ferries in one frame.

The bigger, slower ferry in the background can take vehicles whereas the new, faster one in front only takes people.  And dogs.

Monday, 3 October 2016

The Stones

The Stones is the colloquial term for the Giant's Causeway and I had occasion to go there recently, when an old friend stopped by for a couple of days.

It was busy.  Heck, it's always busy.  I should go at night, really...but apparently it's busy then too, with local photographers, wouldn't you know.

The stones are pretty impressive, truth be told:

This big old lump of rock caught my eye - well, hard not to, isn't it?  Looks like some Giant has plonked it there :) I was trying to hide the people around the back of it, but I failed miserably, on account of not taking into account that I was using the rangefinder, if you see what I mean.  21mm lens on HP5+ dunked in ID-11 and scanned.  There might have been an orange filter on the lens.

The Causeway is an area where the rocks have formed into columns of hexagonal shape, on account of volcanic activity several years ago.   There's about 40,000 of them, apparently and it's Northern Ireland's only Unesco World Heritage site.  There are similar stones on the Scottish Isle of Staffa, just across the water.

I gave up trying to get shots without people in them.  Mostly folk wander about, looking at the stones, photographing them and listening to the audio guide that they pick up at the Visitors' Centre.  

If you want to see what the stones looked like around the year 1900, check out the very first blog post on NE Liberties - here.