Friday, 29 January 2016

Hanging around

The Uncle and his mates seem to have spent a good deal of time waiting for a taxi one day...

I don't know from where or to where, but it seems like it was a Big Deal, since we have more than one photograph of the event...

That's The Man himself there, looking very casual with one foot on the running board, one hand in pocket and the other with cigarette.  The Uncle (and his wife) were big smokers all their lives...and before you ask, neither must have had the you-know-what gene, since both lived to a ripe old age.  They didn't have children and were seasoned travelers...the day he died, in his late eighties, we found an airline ticket for London in his pocket.  Died with his boots on, he did.

I remember The Uncle's brother - that would be the man I knew as Dad - telling me a yarn about how one day he put down his cigarette box on the mantlepiece, stating loudly 'That's the last cigarette I'm smoking', and The Uncle reached for the box, saying 'Well I'll have those, then'.

This last snap today is a strange one:

Strange not just for the snappy attire that The Lads have elected to don, but for the reason that we have two versions of this snap:

It looks like these were taken at exactly the same moment, but from different viewpoints.  Either The Uncle told them to hold that pose while he moved a few yards to the left, or else there were two photographers in the group, who just happened to press the shutter release at the same time.  Very odd...

Thursday, 28 January 2016

My photography mojo

On APUG the other day was a thread about losing your enthusiasm for the old photography thing from time to time.  The question posed, more or less, was 'Is this a natural state of events?'.

A good question - better than the ones 'Is X sharper/better than Y?' and other such nonsense you get from time to time.  Having said that, APUG is better than a lot of other Internet forums (fora?) and occasionally even has threads from which you can learn something...

The general consensus appeared to be that Yes this is a normal occurrence, stick with it, don't sell any gear and wait for your enthusiasm to return, which it eventually will.

Personally speaking (Ed: Funny turn of phrase that - isn't all speaking personal?) I find there are times when indeed the enthusiasm to lift any camera, no matter how small, and do anything remotely interesting with it is somewhat lacking.  However, the benefit of having a darkroom, I notice, is that sometimes if my interest wanes on the photograph-taking side of things, my interest in printing remains relatively healthy and so I can potter about under the enlarger for manys-an-hour and print some negs from the Archives that I have neglected up to now.  I find printing rewarding - probably since it is completing the life-cycle that started with the opening of the shutter.  Rewarding in a way that digital never did for me...even when I could be bothered to upload the digital images to some far-away website and some days later get prints in your hand, it just didn't have the same feeling of accomplishment ('I did that') for me.

Aside: here's a shot of the old Salmon fishery cottage down by Portstewart - one of the few they haven't knocked down yet...

Quite beautiful, I think, the way the cottage looks like it is has almost grown organically out of the rock formation behind it.  The upstairs door is intriguing...a safe way out when the waves are crashing in through the front door maybe?  Strangely I seemed to have got the exposure about right for once and HP5/ID-11 did the rest.

So where was I?  Oh yes, enthusiasm and all that.  Well, sometimes my mojo comes back relatively quickly.  And sometimes it doesn't and I just snap away somewhat randomly to keep my hand in sort of thing.  I try not to let it bother me much, recognise it for what it is and have faith that things will change.  In the meantime I just kind of ignore it.  Perhaps I should name it - like Churchill and his Black Dog.  Perhaps such periods of rest are important, you know, before something sparks inside and off I go again.

This time of year doesn't help - the light, what light there is in The Liberties at the minute, is so dull and flat it is hard to get any enthusiasm for outdoor photography.  Maybe that's it - set up a wee table-top studio and photograph some lifeless things.  Perhaps.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Sandy Dunes

Out with the Franka at the White Rocks one windy day:

That would be the Giant's Whatyamacallit over there in the distance...I must go there before the tourists descend on it in the summertime.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

It was foggy

We've had a fair bit of fog around these parts recently.  This is Port-na-Happle, which lies between the Strand where I walk The Hound, and the Promenade, where the harbour wot-you-seen-yesterday lies and where all the cafés are and the double-parking is.

It's a grand wee place and a lovely walk it is too, even in the fog.  In the summertime you can squeeze yourself into your 5mm wet-suit around these parts and go in for a wee dip in the sea (anything less than 5mm is not advised, no matter what The Experts say).  I have been known to do just that on occasion and it fair wakes you up I can tell you.  There are others who do it just in their speedoes, and some do it every day of the year too.  Clearly they're not wise.

Here's one of herself all kitted out a couple of years ago:

She's a happy wee soul, is Missy.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Those two again...

Yes, it was a stroll along Portstewart Prom which led to the harbour and our two friends Lady Jade and Alimaur:

They're looking a bit vulnerable there, out of the water and everything as those winter storms can be a bit rough at times.

The harbour just doesn't look right without a couple of wee boat things floating in it.  Still, St Patrick's Day isn't far off and my guess they'll be back in their rightful place before then.  And we can all look forward to another sizzling summer in The Liberties.  Right.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Oxen at the drinking trough at the pasture land Hortobágy

Yes, well, that's what it says on the back of this Hungarian postcard:

Impressive-looking horns - and the contraption for getting water from the ground looks equally interesting.

Hortobágy is part of the Great Hungarian Plain and is, apparently, a steppe, with grasslands rich in cattle, water buffalo and horses.  All those beasts need tending to, and no better people to do that than some Hungarian cowboys, seen here in traditional garb:

It looks like The Uncle and his mates fancied doing a bit of cowboying - in the style of a Puszta Shepherd, as you do on holiday...

Now that is what I call protection from the elements.  It's called a Bunda, apparently - a full length cape made from the skins of long-woolled Hungarian sheep.  Now a bit of delving into the Bunda has revealed to me some interesting facts about both it and it's wearer, which, dear reader, I shall now share (Ed: Must you?).  The Bunda is reversible - the photographs show the same garment turned inside out and as you can see, the leather side is very ornamented with various stitchings and a black lamb's skin on the upper part of the back.  It is worn by the shepherds in all climates - in the hot summer, for example, he wears it so that the wool is on the outside.   When it gets cold, he turns it inside out so that the wool is on the inside.  Apparently the shepherds live, or lived, a semi-nomadic life, living out on the steppe for up to six months of the year when the pastures have plentiful grass for their cattle.

Wouldn't you just love a Bunda hanging in your wardrobe for those chilly winter days (or hot summer ones - not that we get many of those, mind you).  I mean, it would be one heck of a conversation opener...

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Tidelines #2

Another one from Portstewart Strand:

Looks like me borders are slightly off there, but you get the idea.  Nikon/50mm/HP5/ID-11/Kentmere VC/Fotospeed Sepia.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

On the wall

So when I was in the darkroom the other day I printed out Missy with cello which you might have seen earlier.  I did a few prints, as I suspected The Grandmas might like one for their walls...

I spli-grade printed it onto Kentmere VC paper.  Although the lighting wasn't great on Missy's face, the highlight on the cello came out well:

So that was my starting point and to be quite honest I didn't do anything else in the darkroom with it.  Looking at it now perhaps I could have darkened down the tiles in the next room (behind the glass doors), as the light there does catch your eye, but since the whole print is on the dark side I'm not sure that would work.  I'd like Missy's face to have a little more contrast, but I didn't fancy trying to do anything in the darkroom with that - too small an area, I reckon.

Anyway, armed with a few prints like the one above, I tried my hand at sepia-toning.  This was the first effort:

It all looks a bit washed out.  I think I left it too long in the bleach.  I tried again, taking the next print out of the bleach earlier:

Better - the contrast is coming back.  Only one left to try, with even less time in the bleach stage:

OK so there's not a lot to choose between the last two prints but I think the last one just has it.  Compared to the first, non-toned print the face is much better defined and the whole print has a bit more life about it.

And now the last two are in their wee frames, hanging on walls - or at least they will be soon, once I hammer a nail or two in...

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Busy Saturday

It was busy downtown Bath on a Saturday evening in November - hardly a place to sit:

I know - a bit murky, that one.  Probably should have upped the contrast a bit, but it was fairly gloomy, if I remember correctly.

Very sociable, the people of Bath, as you can see.  I must admit it was quite pleasant to amble about among the hordes for a while, but only as it made such a change from Life in The Liberties, where things are generally winding down around 5pm and good God-fearing folk are heading home for their tea.  In Bath they would be having supper, no doubt.  Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

I missed the beach, though.  And wind that would clean you, as they say around these parts.  Of which we get a lot, particularly at this time of year.

Monday, 18 January 2016

It's all around her

Ah there she is herself, surrounded by nature.

On Kentmere, via HP5&ID-11.  One of our favourite places, that is - Downhill, but the other side of the road from the ruined Demesne and Mussenden Temple.  The Hound loves it there too - all those trees!  There's a big lake there as well and he likes a wee swim:

Actually, he loves swimming - he can't get enough of it.  He's very cute too - those wee legs working hard to retrieve the sticks Missy throws in for him.

Friday, 15 January 2016


It would appear that The Uncle and his mates enjoyed a few boat trips while in Hungary.  Of course in those days you had to bring your own entertainment:

The band were clearly doing a sterling job and spirits were high.

I wonder what was so interesting over there?  The dress style of the lads is interesting - all those big shorts, wool socks and brogues...and those neck-ties, are we talking Scouts here?   The cut of Yer Man's cloth on the right is also interesting - boater hat and just check out those fancy deck shoes.  His missus must have been feeling the cold, though, since she brought her fur.

Eventually we find ourselves in Debrecen, on the Great Hungarian Plain, way to the east of Budapest.  Clearly it's a bit off the beaten track and there wasn't much evidence of the internal combustion engine in use:

That horse clearly enjoying a bit of a snack - although from the look of it snacks were few and far between.

The streets look pretty deserted...where was everyone?  At least one family were heading into town, perhaps to get some essential supplies from Tesco, or whatever the equivalent was in 1938 in Debrecen.

The strangers were obviously of interest to the local youngsters:

The children are pretty well dressed though - everyone has good shoes from the look of it.  And that definitely looks like Scouting Regalia...

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Just looking

They had funny-shaped windows in Roman times:

Still, the absence of glass means it's easier to take snaps.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

What was she thinking?

There she stood - just long enough for me to snuck up behind her and capture her image on HP5:

I don't think she realised - but there is a heck of a thunk when an FM3A mirror moves up and then down again so you never know, she might have.  Taken at the Roman Baths, as you can see.  You have to go there when in Bath - it's the law, y'know.  I always enjoy it - especially when it's winter and there's not too many tourists about.

It was all a bit much for this lady, though:

Now I know what you're thinking: He's gone and cut her feet off, clearly working too quickly in an attempt to capture 'the moment'.  And you might be right.

All on the Nikon/50mm/HP5/ID-11 combo...hard to beat.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016


I think that's a word, but I'm not sure.  Anyway, this was Portstewart Strand one day last week, taken from the usual 5'9" perspective.

Printed on Kentmere and lightly Sepia toned.  I'm not sure about that left-hand edge - think it might need a bit of darkening down now that I see it in the flesh, so to speak.

I wasn't sure if this darker version was better or not:

I think probably not, but it's one of those things where you have to look at them both for a while.  And then probably throw one or other in the bin.  Or maybe both.

It's hard to get shots like this, as it's a big dog-walking beach, as you know.  Normally there's paw prints and evidence of ball-chasing all over the beach.  Oops!

Monday, 11 January 2016

Clare's shoes

I know you've seen these before, but not like this.  I actually managed to get into the darkroom last week - after too long.  It felt good to be back in there.

Anyway, I printed Clare's shoes on Kentmere RC Select paper.  As seems to be the norm these days, I split-grade printed them - a couple of seconds at grade 00 and then about 5s at grade 3.5 seemed to work.  I was stopped down 5 stops hence the shorter-than-I-usually-like times.

This was a straight print and I thought it could benefit from darkening down the top edge and a little along the right hand side, to kind of balance things up a bit.

Now I'm not great at burning in and such, but was reasonably happy with this.  I gave this one a light tone in warm Selenium as well - there wasn't a huge colour shift but the shadows darkened down a little, not bad considering I was using RC paper.

This one will soon be winging its way to a certain Mr Roy Karlsvig, with whom I'm doing a little print exchange.  He runs a most excellent blog, by the way.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Row, row, row your boat

Continuing our Friday story, The Uncle and his friends had reached Hungary and were out and about.  From what I can glean, they managed to do a few trips to the interior, as it were.

Naturally enough, given that it was 1938 in rural Hungary, ponies and traps seemed to be common:

That's a pretty impressive looking residence in the distance, there - the roadside shop less so.

The Lads were clearly up for a bit of rowing, on the Danube, no less, but this time near the City of Esztergom, northern Hungary:

There's The Uncle's friend Balazs, recognisable with his moustache.  Afterwards they posed for a photograph:

I'm really not dying about the cut of some of those bathing trunks, I have to admit.  There's a rare shot of The Uncle himself, back right, who appears to have gone native and has a towel wrapped around his head.

All that exercise called for some refreshments, and where better than the local cafe.  Looks like either extreme boredom has set in for some of the lads there.  Perhaps they are just tired after the rowing or maybe they've just found out the cafe has no licence to sell beer:

I really like that shot.  It's such a perfect moment - The Lad's expressions and postures are just great.

Note the empty camera case on the table - some sort of folding thing.  Presumably The Uncle's, who is taking the photograph.  Unfortunately we don't have the camera, but we do have a lot of the negs from this trip - lovely big 6x9s. 

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Perfect weather for it

As I left Missy to school on Monday morning it was absolutely bucketing down.  The Hound was in the back of the car, though, ready for his constitutional run on the beach - any beach - and I don't like to disappoint.   So I sat it out for 10 minutes and since the precipitation seemed to be getting less I thought I would chance it.

For a change I drove out to Castlerock - very close to Downhill Castle and Mussenden Temple that I was talking about yesterday.  The place was flooded, but we were lucky, the rain stopped long enough for a bit of a walk.  It was lovely, actually...not a sinner about except for Yours Truly, The Hound and some ominous-looking clouds.  Donegal is almost covered in cloud there, as you can see:

I like Castlerock.   Not that there's much there any more, mind you.  There used to be a half-decent hotel that you could go to in the winter-time and have a cuppa and enjoy the view while being slowly roasted beside the fire.  But it closed some years ago and has since been knocked down.  There's just empty space there now - very sad considering we had many happy times there with friends and family who are no longer with us.

Now there is a nice little cafe in the village - but no views, so I didn't bother this time.   All on the Nikon with a 50mm lens, HP5 and ID-11.  Developed yesterday morning, it was, just for the record.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

While we're on the subject...

Here's another Provia-view of Donegal, but from much, much closer to home:

This was taken early October about half a mile from our house and is looking down The Bann estuary towards Donegal way in the distance there.  You might just make out that wee round tower thing sticking up near the long, low building on the left middle.  The bigger building is the ruins of Downhill Castle, which the Earl Bishop of Bristol Frederick Hervey built in the 18th Century.  The round tower is Mussenden Temple, built in the Italianate style for his cousin, as one does when one is an Earl or a Bishop, or both as in this case.  It's built right on the edge of the cliff and is pretty spectacular, I have to admit.  I should really take a decent snap of it, but it's a bit like a lot of the things around here (Dunluce Castle, Giant's Causeway), photographed to death.  So for the moment I'm resisting.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A bit behind

I'm a bit behind schedule at the minute, what with Christmas et al.  I can't seriously complain though, as the family stuff comes first.  Mrs Liberties was off her feet a lot over the festive period and that meant yours truly had to step up.  On the plus side, I can now make a decent roast dinner.  It's getting it all to come together at the same time was always the hardest thing, I found, but recently things have worked out and my timing seems to be better.  As we learnt yesterday, practice does have a tendency to improve things...

The upshot is that while I have at least 3 films languishing in various cameras nearing the endpoint, none are actually ready for dunking in ID-11 as of yet.  But I'm optimistic - now that Missy is back at school the old shutter releases might get pressed, films might get finished and well, sure you know what happens next, right?

In the meantime, I came across these couple of Provia-colour slides from our little road trip to Donegal in the summer, with Dr C and his bro.  I can't vouch for accurate representation of the conditions at the time, but all the same I do like how they've come out.  All on the Nikon FM3A, which is an absolute joy to use.

Just look at our wee patchwork quilt of fields:

Ah we are a landscape of hills and water, indeed we are:

Actually that sky looks spot on to how I remember it, to be fair.   To be honest, most of the year our skies look like that.  I know the fairly relentless cloud cover does get some people down, but I think our skies are pretty damn special. I can't help thinking how good they will look on FP4 or HP5 - and now I can add Provia to the list.

It's only a couple of hours from The Liberties, is Donegal.  I don't know why we don't go there more often.  It really is lovely, even in colour...

Well actually I do know...driving and ankylosing spondylitis are not good bed-fellows, y'see.  It's the legs.  And the back.  And the neck.  And all the bits in-between, like muscles, tendons and ligaments.  Did you know, that it's the ligaments that connect bone to bone and the tendons what connect muscle to bone?  That's the sort of thing you learn whilst at The Min.  That and all about syndesmophytes.  Heh?  That's a good one, isn't it?  Thems the things that cause all the fusion and pain in AS.  I could think of another word for them, mind you...

Monday, 4 January 2016


Here's Missy engaged in some late evening practice for her Grade 3 exam just before Christmas:

And the practice paid off - she got it.  C'mon now, was there ever any doubt?!

Saturday, 2 January 2016


So 2015 is behind us and we are all looking forward to a new year.

Before we push on with 2016, time to reflect.  My Big Plan for 2015 was to get the darkroom up and running again.  Plan achieved!  The 'sink' which I had spent far too long making in the garage finally got finished and installed.  It won't win any design awards but there you go.  No running water in the darkroom as yet but since I mostly use a slot processor that's not too big an issue.  I just carry in a few jugs of water to fill the tray that the prints go in when they come out of the fixer and then once I've run out of energy after a couple of hours in the darkroom I transport them back to the kitchen for washing.  Since for now I'm using RC paper the washing doesn't take long.

So I got printing again - nothing spectacular, just feeling my way.  But when I look back at prints made from 2014 I see an improvement, so I'm happy.

What else?  Oh yes, I experimented a bit with toning.  That was fun and more than a little magical.  I mean you take a normal print, like this one:

and then you bleach it until there's hardly any image visible.  Then you give it a quick wash and dunk in some sepia toner and the image re-emerges in front of your eyes:

Except of course now it looks a little different.

I tried a little street photography - and enjoyed it, I have to admit.   And I read a bit and looked at too many images on the web.  There are a lot of very talented people out there - photograph-takers and darkroom printers.  Most times it's inspirational.  Sometimes it's depressing when you realise you are standing on the foothills of a very large mountain range...

OK enough reflection!  Time to look forward.  I don't do resolutions, but I think setting a few goals does no harm.

I still spend too long sitting in front of a computer.  I intend to do less of that and more of being Out and About, hopefully with a photograph-capturing device in hand.  And there is still too much bare space on the walls of our little I intend to fill that space with some hand-made prints.

On another note, when in Bath the physios went on and on about Tai Chi as just about the best thing we peeps with ankylosing spondylitis could do.  Well there's only so many times you can ignore good advice so I found a local class and have started learning The Forms.  If you don't know, Tai Chi is the one with deep breathing, relaxation and where all the movements are carried out very s-l-o-w-l-y. All I can say is, why didn't I do this earlier?  They say - whoever they are - that Tai Chi is one thing you can actually improve at as you get older.  So far so good and after a few weeks I'm already noticing a difference.

So there we have it.  Here's hoping for a creative and healthy 2016 - for me and for all you, too.  Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 1 January 2016


The summer of 1938, as you may recall, was pretty hot, so The Uncle and his mates headed for this place:

St Margaret's Island, as you can see from the period postcard, sits in the middle of The Danube, between Buda and Pest.  Named after King Béla IV's daughter, who he sent to a convent there sometime in the 13th Century.  Apparently before then it was called Rabbit Island...

Anyway, the lads took full advantage of the bathing facilities - but be warned...those of a nervous disposition may want to look away now.  For the rest of you, feast your eyes on this show of prime Irish and Hungarian beefcake, 1938-style:

I like the folding camera yer man on the right is holding and the girl sunbathing is taking a keen interest in things.  That would be Balazs in the middle there, all tanned and everything.  Probably for the Irish lads it would have been the first time their bodies had been exposed to the sun - they are all looking a little on the white side of bronze there and more than a little uncomfortable...

A bit shaky this one, but here they are up to their necks in it.  They're obviously a bit more relaxed now they are in the water.  I like the cigarette there - a nice touch, that, when bathing.  I suppose it was the Done Thing in them days.

Looks like St Margaret's Island was the place to be in the summer of '38. I'm hazarding a guess that yer man on the front left there wasn't Irish, by the way...