Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Jersey War Tunnels

OK so we did the Jersey War Tunnels.  Well, you have to really, when visiting Jersey.  Actually it was a great day out - or rather, a great day in, since you are underground, of course.  Well worth a visit - the whole thing is very well done.

On entry, you are greeted with a series of tanks and what-have-you, in an eerily dark entrance tunnel, complete with camouflage netting and subtle lighting.

I know, very subtle lighting, wasn't it?  It really was pretty dark, and I only had the 21mm f/4 lens with me, so I was rating the old HP5+ at 1600.  I was trying to capture some of the mood of the whole thing and seem to have succeeded admirably, don't you think?  While I could have perhaps let a little bit more light in, there is something visible there - just!  OK I may have over-developed slightly too, which didn't help matters.  It was ID-11, stock, for 14 minutes in case you are interested in that sort of thing.

It was the last of the fixer too.  I make up 1 litre at the time at 1+4 and that works, according to Ilford's datasheet, for 24 35mm films.  I don't push it though, and call it a day at 20 films.  That's without replenishment.  Properly replenished, a fixer bath can be used 'for a very long period of time', Ilford say, and I've no reason to doubt them.  I might find myself having to test that theory sooner rather than later, given recent events in this part of the world.

This last one was of an early Enigma machine, which I admire a lot, what with me Maths background and all that.

Monday, 27 June 2016

No place like home

Dorothy was right: There is no place like home.  We've been away for the week to Jersey.  An interesting place, Jersey - not part of the UK, but connected to it in some strange way.  It's an independent entity, apparently - and not even a full member of the EU.  Too difficult for me to work out what it really is, but it exists and flights are direct from Belfast, which is a good thing for us here in The Liberties.

So we're back home now, feeling tired and what have you from a busy week tramping around St Helier, St John, St Mary and other Jersey parishes.

I've no Jersey snaps as of yet - there's a couple of films sitting looking at me, waiting to be developed but to be honest I didn't take as many photographs as I was prepared for.  I was in holiday mode, in family mode, so opportunities didn't present themselves that often.  I didn't mind - sometimes it's good just to chill and watch the world go by without always pointing a camera at it.

One from the garden, back in April time, just as the ferns were starting to unfurl.  I liked the back-lighting, late afternoon so quite soft light.  Probably a bit too much light coming through in the background, mind you, which I should have tried to burn in a bit.  I didn't have long to take it, as the sun kept disappearing behind the clouds and then coming back out again.  Eventually, of course, the clouds won, as they always do in this part of the world.  A Sinar/FP4+/ID-11/Kentmere combination.
Jersey was an interesting wee place.  Outside of St Helier, the capital city, the roads are quite narrow.  Most of the time cars coming in the opposite direction had to reverse and drive into the side of the road, or even some-one's front yard in order to let our bus past.  Occasionally the bus had to reverse, like when we met tractors carrying a load of Jersey Royal potatoes, for instance.  We had some of their spuds and they were tasty, I have to admit.  Not on the same level as a good Maris Piper, mind you, but good all the same.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Spinning a yarn

Dunster is a cute little village in Somerset that I passed through sometime around 1987.

That would be the famous octagonal Yarn Market building there on the left, with the Norman Castle just visible in the background.   That would be yarn as in material, cloth, not the yarn your grandpa just to spin you when you were young.   Although it looks like a good place to sit and listen to a yarn as well, to be fair.

On the right is a better view of the castle and The Bantam Shop, which is apparently a listed building.  I doubt if they actually sell bantams there nowadays, or even in 1987, but as I don't recall going in I can't say for sure.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The walk

This is what you get when you walk from Portstewart Strand round to the town itself, where the Promenade is and the ice-cream shops are:

I know, a bit under-exposed, but still.  If you have some loose change and fancy a view of the sea and Donegal and Mussenden Temple every day you could purchase one of those apartments.  You'd need a lot of loose change, to be fair.  They're very des res, you know.

Speaking of the Prom, it looks like this at the minute:

Note the fancy new railings and the fancy new lights.  But it's not finished yet - still a ways to go.   With luck they'll put back the seats along the lower walkway there, so that folk can sit and eat their chips and ice-cream while admiring the view.

That would be this view:

Oops - there's Missy in the foreground there, ice cream in hand.  On the rocks she was.  Even though the sea was calm, as you can see, I was still nervous, as there's a fairly strong swell around these parts.  She was OK though and clambered back up to the path after satisfying her curiosity.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Not really here

I'm away at the minute, on a short break, from one island to another. I will no doubt be posting a snap or two once I return home and do some developing.

So for now I give you another shot of my favourite place:

Taken the same day as the surfer one which you might have spotted recently.  A grand wee place, Portstewart is.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Postcards from Devon

Some more shots of North Devon, from the 80s.  From the look of things, the weather was pretty murky.  Nice though, eh?  All that rolling countryside and what have you:

I recall going for a drive across Exmoor, towards Barnstaple.  By the time we got there the rain had set in and the cloud was hanging low over the town.  To be honest, it looked like a really miserable place - but then pretty much everywhere does in weather like that.  According to that online encyclopedia site, the name comes from the Old English bearde (battle-axe) and stapol (pillar, or post, set up to mark a religious or administrative meeting place).  But we didn't stop in BeardeStapol, all those years ago - we kept moving.

I'm not quite sure about that sunset one there - would that be South Wales from the North Devon coast?  I'm not sure that it is that close, but it could be.  The Kodachrome is definitely part of the North Devon film, that much I do know.

Not many on the beach that day.  It was winter, or perhaps early spring, as I recall.  Probably a bit nippy.  Nice light on yonder hill, though.  Presumably the heather giving it that reddish colour.  Not many trees around, anyway.

Nice and atmospheric that one, I thought.  You can almost feel the precipitation just hanging in the air.  Here's another of me, propped up by the sea wall:

'Tis strange looking at old photographs of oneself.  I mean, I recognise the person looking at me and the place, the story behind it and everything.  I wonder about the process of getting to where I am now, from there.  All those decisions I took, good ones, bad ones, OK ones.  All that moving around, the people I was close to then, but no longer, the few that have kept in touch and the ones that didn't make it this far.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Do you ever wish?

I wish I hadn't bothered going in the darkroom yesterday morning.  I thought I would re-visit some older negs to produce something for the wall.  Nothing worked.  I mean, nothing.  After a while I realised most of the negs I was trying to make a silk purse out of were, in fact, sow's ears.  Too little contrast was the problem for most of them and the prints were coming out flat as a pancake even after ramping up the contrast filtration.

I have a sneaking suspicion that part of the problem lies my workflow, specifically, with scanning the negs, which is the first thing I do after the film is dried and cut.  I do this mostly as a sort of a digital contact sheet, to see if any are half decent.  Of course some scans end up on this place.  Trouble is, I think, that when I bring the scanned image into my favourite software and hit 'Auto contrast' or whatever they mostly all look fine, when in actual fact the negs can be poor.  The software is too good, basically - it can rescue poor negatives far too easily and therein lies the problem. to proceed.  The solution of course is the most obvious - don't scan.  Get my feedback from the darkroom.  Perhaps then I'll learn better how to produce better negs - ones that are easier to print.

OK, so here's a real print - of the usual place, Portstewart Strand.  Not sure - I might have posted this before, so apologies if it seems familiar.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Local lad made good, gone

Yesterday evening, as the bar-be-que was about to have a wee fishy placed gently on it, we learned of the passing of a certain Mr Henry McCullough.

No stranger to those in the know, Henry was a very talented musician, playing with none other than Paul McCartney in Wings, among other accolades.  He even played with Joe Cocker at Woodstock - there ain't many who had that on their CV.

Our paths crossed briefly many moons ago, as you might recall from an earlier post, when Frankie Miller came to play in The Liberties in the late 70s.  Frankie doing his hard-man stare and Henry on his left.

I used to see Henry not so long ago driving around Coleraine, in a big old Jag, always with a big cowboy hat on.  Unmistakable rock star.   A local lad, made good, gone - as they might say in the NY Times.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Not very often

It's not very often you find me down on Portstewart Strand in the evenings - I'm more of a morning person.

But this day I was, since Missy and her friend wanted a walk (?).   This must have been a few weeks ago, since the great National Trust are now charging to get on the beach, as they do between April and September.  A fiver seems a little too much for an hour's stroll along a beach that we used to come to for free not that many years ago.

Anyway, the sun was going down behind Inishowen Peninsula and I pointed the Nikon at it, just to see what gave.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Surf's up

The surf was up the other day in Portstewart.

Well, not up that much, as you can see.  Sometimes we get a pretty big sea, as you can imagine, given our location on the North Coast of Ireland.  Surfing is big in Ireland these days - people come from all over the place to hone their skills.  In my youth there was no surfing - well, not much, anyway.  I think the wetsuit technology has come a long way since then, to be fair.

I think things were a little underexposed here, hence the rather menacing sky.  It was menacing, but perhaps not quite as dramatic as you see here.  Looks good though, eh?  Mussenden Temple standing proud on the headland there, as it does.  This one is on the list for some darkroom action.  Been finding it hard to get in there these days, what with Missy's party and all.  But hopefully this week I'll sneak in for an hour or two.

Friday, 10 June 2016

North Devon

So back in 1987 I was wandering around Exmoor, North Devon with an OM1 loaded with Kodachrome.  A lovely part of the world to find yourself in.

I know - I had hair in those days!  And that was my little silver Volkswagen, which had taken my girlfriend at the time and myself from London to Lynmouth for a short break.  Kind of strange, that, since at the time I was living in Taunton.  But my girlfriend was a London lass and if I recall correctly, I had driven there for her birthday celebrations and this was my present to her - a weekend away in the wild west.

I wasn't on great form at that time.  It was shortly before my second hip replacement, I recall.  I was walking very badly, in a lot of pain.  I'm sure the Taunton-London-Devon drive didn't help matters, mind you...

Lynmouth lies at the foot of a 700 foot cliff face.  It's sister village, Lynton is at the top and a little cable railway connects the two.  Lynmouth has been prone to flooding over the years, with a major flood in 1952 claiming 34 lives.

We stayed in rather lovely Rising Sun:

Well, not in the hotel itself, in Shelley's Cottage, just up the lane:

That's it with the strange-looking chimney and the thatch.  Apparently, yer poet man honeymoon'd there.  I remember it being very charming.  It wasn't a great weekend, though and the girlfriend and I split up a couple of months later, shortly after my hip operation.  In many ways it seems like a long time ago, although if I really think hard about it I can remember a lot of details.  I can recall walking up from the hotel to the cottage - it was fairly steep and probably a bit of struggle for me.   I remember we arrived too late for the dinner service, so they had a cold salad prepared in advance for us - and it was pretty special, too.

Inside Shelley's Cottage

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Here's another Johnny

This is a special one...this Johnny will be 93 years young this year.  Here he is, sitting outside on mother's patio, enjoying the sun.

I didn't do a great job on him - I should have moved myself back and taken him full in, legs and all.  But there we are, maybe next time I'll get him properly.

Johnny is my mother's cousin, one of the McCaughren clann, from Ballymena/Cullybackey direction.  Not only is Johnny in his tenth decade of life, but he drives his car ('down the beck roads') every single day he draws breath.  He gets up in the morning in his sheltered accommodation, has a wee cup of tea, gets in the car and then goes where the car takes him.  All over the place - he's done 90,000 miles in the last 3 years.

He was a driver all his working life, you see.  For a while with a bread company and then driving a cement lorry, so he's used to being on the road.  About 2 years ago he got a speeding ticket - very annoyed he was.  He had to re-take his test earlier this year, which he passed, of course.  Way to go, Johnny, way to go.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Here's Johnny

Johnny did the music at the party.

A very decent chap he is too.  Afterwards he was heading down the Legion to join his wife.  That's the British Legion Club to you non-Liberties peeps, not to be confused with that other famous Legion (The French Foreign One).

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Hair, no hair

Note the straight hair.  I don't like the straight hair.  Well, I do, but I prefer the natural curls.  

But hey, what do I know? I'm just her 52-soon-to-be-53-year-old father, with very little hair.

Taken on the German Rangefinder and a 21mm lens, HP5+/ID-11.

Monday, 6 June 2016

A teenager in the house

Well Missy's party went well - the sun shone, the DJ played the right tunes and the right people showed up.

We were slightly over-prepared on the food front - clearly the music and the general excitement didn't leave any time for burgers or hot dogs, so we had a small mountain of left-overs.

The cake seemed to go down well enough, though:

There was an awful lot of hair about, as you can imagine.  And most of the girls seemed to be permanently attached to their phones.  But as time went on things loosened up and the phone usage got less as the party games got going.

The Hound was well-behaved, getting into the thick of things from time to time.  He got lots of pats and didn't bite anyone, thank goodness.  It all went smoothly enough and I think the same number of bodies left that arrived - in more or less the same condition, give or take.

The lads:

We were all feeling a little jaded yesterday, for obvious reasons.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

It's a big day

It's a big day in The Liberties, since Missy here becomes a teenager today.  She is very excited at the prospect of being a teenager - she said being 12 is like being in the middle, you're not a child but you're not a teenager.  I don't remember becoming a teenager was anything that special - I can remember being 10 and that being a big deal - double figures!  Perhaps that was a hint towards my fascination to come with numbers.

Another one printed on RC Warmtone.  The scan isn't very good - the skin tones in the print are quite nice.
So we have a party organised.  About 5.30 a group of Missy's friends (how can she so many close friends?) will descend on the McNeill homestead where they will be entertained with food and music until 8pm.  At which point most will depart, leaving a couple who are 'sleeping over'.  As usual in these affairs there will, I expect, be precious little sleeping done.  They will no doubt get shouted at about 2am and then hopefully things will be quiet for a few hours.

The weather has been amazingly good all week - very warm, full sun.  All being well that will continue at least for another 12 hours - after that I don't care, it can rain all next week if it likes.

The plan is to get a film developed early Sunday morning, before anyone else is up.  In which case there might be something to show on this place come Monday.  Hopefully.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Financial Maths 101

A little light diversion for y'all today.  My stepson is in the middle of his finals at University in Belfast.  You might remember him and his girlfriend Clare - well, you'd remember her shoes at least.  He's under pressure, for he has an unbelievably good job offer from BT which is dependent on him getting a 2.1.  Not easy when you're doing a degree in Maths with Computer Science.  He's good on the old computery-stuff, but final year Maths stuff is, well, somewhat challenging, shall we say.

I should know, 'cos I did a degree in Mathematics a very long time ago (before I found out that Computer Science was a lot easier).

So he messaged me at the weekend, in some sort of panic-mode since his exam in Financial Maths is, well, today.  You'll have to excuse the digital images for once but this is what he sent me:

Still with me?  Good, then we shall proceed by simplifying the second term (you just knew I was going to say that, didn't you :)

I like the comment from the Lecturer 'There is a lot of scope for making errors...', followed by a "much easier" approach.

I'll spare you the final page - although please let me know if I've left you hanging and you really need to know how this ends or else you'll never get to sleep...

Rather him than me, that's all I can say.  I did give it a good look but the terms are so complex it's hard to see the wood for the trees - and it's over 30 years since I did anything remotely similar to this.  My stepson has a good strategy, though.  In his own words, 'I'll have to be on my bullshit A-game tomorrow'.  Indeed he will.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

In the moment

There she was, across the table from me, and I snapped her up in the moment:

I printed her out on Ilford RC Warmtone in Fotospeed WT-10 developer for a change.  The Warmtone is a lovely paper for this sort of stuff.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016


The other week I had to go to Ballymena Health Centre for a routine appointment.  Along I tootle, heading for the usual place - which like a lot of older hospital buildings used to be the Ballymena Workhouse:

All lovely old stone work, as was the norm back in the day.

I remember my grandfather never wanting to go to hospital, as in Coleraine too it was in the old Workhouse building.  Such was the fear that he had for anything to do with the Workhouse.  Difficult for me to understand really, being from a different era, but for sure I understood it was not a place you would ever choose to go.  Interesting the plaque states that the Workhouse System ended in 1948.  I would have thought it ended a long time before that, but there you go.

Anyway, as I entered the building I did think the place was a bit deserted and then I was informed that the department had moved next door, 'to the new building'.  No problem, says I, and off I tootle again.

And there we have it.  No doubt many a design award has been won.  That would be Slemish mountain you might be able to make out there way in the distance, by the way.  Not really a mountain, of course...we're not talking K2 or Annapurna or one of them boys here in County Antrim.  However, it is the same Slemish on which good old St. Patrick was rumoured to have tended swine when he was a young whipper-snapper - that would be before he saved Ireland from Druidism and brought enlightenment (i.e., Christianity) to the people.  Indeed, he got very busy in his old age, did Patrick.  Not like me.  I've got very un-busy in me old age.  Ah well.

So where was I...oh yes, the lovely new health centre in Ballymena.  So I rounded the corner and stepped inside - and thought for a minute I was in an airport:

You might spot the front doors there, if your eyesight is good.  Cleverly, all the treatment rooms appeared to be on the upper floors.  Now there are lifts for the not-so-mobile (like me) but they are, naturally enough, right at the back of the building.  It's all lovely and clean and what-have-you, but not only do you have to walk across the full length of the light, airy, polished-to-death atrium (just wait until it's wet outside - won't be long - and see how many people fall over and break a bone on that floor) to get to the lift, but then down seemingly endless long corridors once you actually step out of the lift.  Clearly this was not designed for people who might be elderly, infirm, unable to walk very well, or, heaven forbid, ill or anything like that.  No, this health centre was obviously built for people who are healthy.

Sometimes I think all I do these days is moan but honestly, it really gets my goat when I see millions of pounds being spent like this, on something which is nice and bright and clean and very suitable for all the staff and people in suits but is clearly not designed for the people that actually matter -  the users.

(Of course I realise that is very old-fashioned thinking...the people that matter are the managers and staff.  How silly of me.)

And then to cap it all, once my appointment was finished, the very nice lady asked me to take a note to the admissions desk in order to make my next appointment for 6 months time.  Excuse me?  Now there were 3 people in the room - the health professional person I had come to see, a student nurse and yours truly.  One of the three has had 4 hip replacements and has obvious mobility problems.   No matter, I'll take another walk down another long corridor followed by a very lengthy and uncomfortable stand in a queue before handing over 'the note' to someone sitting down (in an ergonomically-designed chair, no doubt) behind a very nice-looking desk.  It's mad.

It's the same on the rare occasion that I actually see a consultant.  He or she usually prescribes some drug or other ('cos that's what they do).  Do they give me the drug?  No, they write a letter and give the letter to me.  I then take said letter to my GP Surgery (car journey #1).  Then I wait 24 hours.  Then I drive back to the GP Surgery (car journey #2) to pick up another note ('prescription') and then I drive to the Pharmacy (car journey #3) and wait in line, as the Americans say, to get my drug.  Or sometimes when it works the prescription gets magically picked up by the Pharmacy and I can just go straight there, after 48 hours.  Either way, it's still mad in this age of electronic communication.

But - taking a deep breath - back to things that do work well.  All snaps taken on a lovely little German rangefinder with a 35mm lens attached, some type of Ilford film in it and sloshed in ID-11.  Magic.

Sorry.  I got a bit Mr Angry there.  I'm calmer now, had some Green Tea, feeling much better, thanks...