Friday, 22 September 2017

Kelp House, Rathlin Island

A place at which I have stood a number of times and even printed it out on lith more than once, but this was the state of play earlier this summer:

From the 'Blad, HP5+, Foma paper and Easylith developer

I had to clamber over the rocks to take this snap and Missy, who was exploring round the other side of the Kelp House when I pressed the shutter release, had a panic attack when she saw where I was.  I was ordered to 'Stay Put' while she came to my rescue - I was actually quite happy to accept help, as if I had taken a tumble the 'Blad might have got damaged :)

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


The house in The Netherlands we were staying at recently.  Not a typical Dutch House, apparently - more your Scandinavian/Finnish House.  Lots of wood inside and out - very nice it was too.  Sauna upstairs and all. Anyway, I snapped the outside of it up on the M6, printed said negative on Foma paper and dunked it in some lith developer.  Came out rather well, I thought - some darkish bits, some lightish bits and some bits in-between:

A Finnish-style house, in The Netherlands, 2017

Monday, 18 September 2017

Dutch barn

When I printed out a 35mm neg from our recent visit to Orvelte Museum Village in The Netherlands, it turned out like this:

The side of a barn, via 35mm rangefinder camera&35mm lens
So I dried the fibre paper thing off and pressed it for a couple of days in the garage using my bespoke pressing apparatus - a couple of bits of melamine-covered chipboard on top of which I place a very old and heavy Sony CD player once belonging to my Uncle and a similiarly heavy socket set from the days when I used to mess about under cars - long gone I can tell you.  Anyway, it seems to work OK for after a couple of days the prints are fairly flat.

After all that, I decided to immerse the print in some H2O and then bleach it and finally sepia tone it.  After another round of drying and flattening it came out looking like this:

Not quite sure it was worth the effort, to be honest...

Friday, 15 September 2017

Westerbork Transit Camp

A rather grim, but important reminder of the bloody history in Europe not so long ago is Westerbork Transit Camp, in Drenthe, Netherlands.  We went there.  There's an interesting and very informative museum with many stories and artefacts of the camp's inhabitants.  Unfortunately most of the written history is in Dutch and I was surprised how little I could understand - my school German, with some top-ups over the years isn't too bad but Dutch seems to have different roots so I was floundering a bit.

Originally, the camp at Westerbork had been erected by the Dutch as a refugee camp for the many thousands of Jews streaming across the border with Germany in the 1930s.  Interestingly, in 1938 The Netherlands closed their border with Germany due to the increase in refugees after Kristallnacht.  In 1939 Westerbork was built to house the refugees (although the Committee for Jewish Refugees had been required to underwrite the camp's expenses).  Anyway, when Germany invaded, the function of the camp changed to become a transportation centre to Auchwitz-Birkenau (over 60,000), Sobibor (over 34,000) and Bergen-Belsen.  Only a handful survived.  Anne Frank and her family were among the families transported in one of the very last trains to leave the camp.

It wasn't a place that I really felt like taking many photographs but I did like this piece of sculpture which I snapped up as I passed.  Printed out on Slavich paper, lith developer and some sepia tone.  It's a bit over-done, but perhaps that's appropriate given the subject:

Wednesday, 13 September 2017


Somewhere north and a bit west of Amsterdam lies the province of Drenthe, in The Netherlands. It looks like this:

Well, Ok, I'll qualify that statement.  Part of it looks like this when printed out on Slavich Unibrom paper and sloshed about in lith developer.

Monday, 11 September 2017


The Marina in Coleraine isn't very big - OK, it's very small, truth be told, but it's good for a walk about with a photo-apparat.  It's the sort of place you have to take your time and look at things and I like that.  Not that this is the best capture in the world ever, mind you but it sort of came out OK when printed on the very last sheet of my beautiful Foma 131 paper and developed in nearly the last drop of my Easylith developer:

Square format...simply the best.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Memento Mori

Inside St Thomas' Church on Rathlin Island is an unusual piece of stonework on one of the walls - Memento Mori, remember you have to die.  A reflection on the transient nature of earthly things and pursuits.  An example, apparently, of a transi or cadaver tomb that depicts the decayed corpse of the deceased.  Whatever your take on it, and its message, it is an unusual piece of work (at least for this part of the world) and one that I like to photograph when I find myself on the island.

All mounted and everything.  Memento Mori, September 2017.  Handheld on the 'Blad, 50mm lens.

With all the stone work I just had to develop the print in lith.  I took a chance and re-used some I'd made up a while back and while it was a little slow to get going on the Foma paper it developed quite nicely in the end.  For those interested in such things I over-exposed (in the darkroom) by 3 stops, which seemed to give a decent amount of contrast.  As we all know (from Tim Rudman's book on lith printing) in the land of lith, contrast is increased by cutting exposure and developing for longer.  Since there is (or should be) infectious development going on it isn't always easy to gauge the right time to lift the print from the developer, particularly since you're working under the safelight.

I have a safelight wired into the enlarger timer so that it comes on once the print has been exposed. A second safelight sits near the wet bench - this one I keep off until I can see the image getting close to being ready, which can be anything from 3-10 minutes, for me at any rate.  When I think it's nearly cooked I'll switch this second safelight on and lift the print out of the developer and hold it close enough to see what the blacks are like.  If need be, the print gets re-immersed in the developer for another bit and then I'll take another look.  When I think enough is enough I'll dump it into the stop bath and then fix it.

It helps, I find, if I've already developed a print which has some nice blacks in it and is now sitting in the water tray.  That way I've something I can compare the current print to try to get the right snatch point.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Wifi in de Trein

That's what it said on Dutch Railways when were there visiting the dude you saw in the last post a couple of weeks ago.  The trains ran on time.  I mean, on time.  They could teach the UK a thing or two about running a rail network, the Dutch could.  Or pretty much any other country, I reckon.  OK it helps when the country is relatively small and relatively wealthy, as The Netherlands is.  And boy are they tall over there!  We were lucky enough to share our train carriage with members of the Dutch Olympic Volleyball team (so it said on their apparel) and I can tell you, those lads had some height on them.

But anyway, Yours Truly had obviously been trying to save a few sheckels and had booked an early flight from Belfast.  It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, though goodness knows what I was on at the time I booked it, for the upshot was we had to get up at 3am - early by anyone's book I would say.  It's not the getting up is the problem, of course, it's the travelling...the waiting around for connections, the hawking bags about, the waiting...and did I mention the waiting around?  Suffice to say when we eventually reached our destination it was time for bed according to our bodies, but in the real world it was early afternoon.  Ah well, we powered on through as best we could and of course the company and the renewed friendships made it a whole lot easier.

I had the M6 with me - the ideal travel companion! And so I couldn't resist a little snapping of Missy in de Trein as we sped through Amsterdam.  I purposefully waited until we had a station sign in the background before pressing the shutter release, as I thought it might make a nice story...only I forgot I was compromised on me aperture, on account of the available light, so the writing on the sign got lost somewhere in the silver halide crystals that are present in Ilford HP5+ and are brought to life in ID-11 and projected onto Ilford Warmtone RC paper:

Not a Zombie, but as close as you will get in the real world.  Missy, en route from Schipol to Assen, August 2017

Monday, 4 September 2017

Just some old guy I know

Just a scan of a darkroom print of some old guy I know, that's all:

It didn't scan well but there you go. On Ilford Warmtone RC paper.  I do like it - I think I got him.  You saw an earlier version of him here, by the way.

What's that you say?  What's going on with the hands?  I dunno.  That's just him, being himself, I guess...

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Can't win 'em all

'Tis funny, since quite often you know when something might or might not be quite right when you press that shutter release.  Actually, writing that sentence made me wonder, do digital cameras have shutters - as we know them, that is?  Turns out they do, or probably do, since apparently the sensors need some sort of shutter to stop them recording what they see all of the time.  So there you go.  No better explanation on the 'Net will you find.  Perhaps.

But to get back to to the case in point, sometimes when you press that shutter release button, usually on the top of the camera - although on my old Practica MTL5 it resides about 3/4 way up from the bottom plate, which is actually a really comfortable place and one wonders why other manufacturers did not follow suit but that's another question for another day in what is already becoming a very long sentence - one has a bit of an inkling whether or not there might be something worthwhile captured.  As we film users don't have the luxury of 'chimping', we're left wondering until we pull the film from the Paterson spiral after the final wash and as we dunk it into the Kodak Photo-Flo we catch a sneaky look to see if there might be something there.  Hanging it up to dry in the improvised film-dryer courtesy of Ikea we sneak another peek.  But only after drying said film, as we cut it into strips of 6-, or maybe 5-negative rows before inserting into our PrintFile negative sleeves (or similar) do we really begin to look closely.  And then maybe we might lay said film strips onto a light box if one has one available and look through a magnifying loupe, or alternatively, as I do, one holds said film-strips up to the light to see what one can see.

But anyway, after all that palaver, you might get the impression there might be something worth printing - perhaps a couple of frames of the film at least.  I've said before that I gave up scanning negs some time ago and much the better do I feel for it.  Most times I'll print it if a neg looks half-decent and after looking at the print, if it's still only half-decent I'll not do anything more with it.  If I think it 'has potential' then it's a different story...usually an expensive one as well as it'll take a few, or more than a few, sheets of paper to get it the way I want it.  Sometimes, of course, it never gets to be 'the way I want it' but takes me on a different path altogether and that's OK.

After all that chat, here's a print.  Now I kinda knew at the time that there was a lot I liked in this shot - lines, shapes, stonework and even churchy stuff in the background -  but I also knew that I'd be losing the sky, since there was really nothing being Portugal in summer and all.  A filter of some sort might have helped, but it was a family holiday and I was in 'tourist' mode and wasn't going to break up the party for half an hour while I futtered about with camera stuff...

Steps of the São Francisco Church, Porto, poorly snapped and poorly printed
To futer, by the way, is pronounced 'footer' and is a good NE Liberties word (probably Scots fouter, possibly originally old French foutre :) or Irish futar) meaning to fidget, or similar, although my grandfather would have used this word frequently in the context of being a bit kack-handed, or clumsy.  'Stop futtering!' 'What are you futtering at? - give that to me!' Not to be said in any angry sense, mind you, more a relaxed/helpful way...

Monday, 28 August 2017

I'm trying... bring her up properly, the one that is known in This Place as Missy.  Of course she has her phone and snaps away merrily on it and shares stuff on Instagram and what-have-you, but she has grown rather attached to her OM-1 as well and most times these days she reaches for it when we head out somewhere.  And she insists on B&W film, too.  I neither encourage or discourage, I leave it up to her.

It's fully manual, the OM-1, as you know, and she has to think about focus and metering and all that but she gets it.  Sometimes I think I should splash out and get her an OM-2 or something semi-automatic at least, and maybe I will one of these days...but not just yet.  Manual is good to learn on.   She scorns my Nikon FM3a, with it's 'A' setting.  She's right too :)

The OM-1 was my first real, proper camera, way back in '73.  I had a Zenit B before that which actually was quite OK, but the OM was a proper system camera - and about half the weight of the Zenit, with bayonet lens mounting, a built-in TTL meter and no separate stop-down ring.  Made me a better photographer overnight!  When I see Missy with it, it takes me back to when I was the same age.

On Ilford Warmtone RC with a bit of hot selenium added to try to get some contrast in there.  Didn't work.  Taken just below Portstewart Prom - the little bit of sand that there is there...same time&place as this one which worked much better.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Summer's over

First day back at school for Missy, so summer is officially over in The Liberties.  Well only a half-day at school - they're breaking her in gently.

To round off the summer we had a short break last week in The Netherlands, visiting an old Uni friend - the dude on the right of this snap, as it happens, who is now somebody very big in gas, apparently.  The girl in the middle would be Carol and the androgynous bloke on the left would!

On Ilford Warmtone RC paper, with a light sepia tone

Now I can place this snap pretty accurately to early 1982, when I was 18 about to hit 19.  Thirty-five years ago.  How did that happen, eh? Taken on the steps of the Halls of Residence of Bath University, up on Claverton Down, using my Olympus OM-1.  It was a great camera and it was a great time, I have to admit.  I was sent on me way from The Liberties late September, all my worldly belongings in two suitcases (no wheels in those days) to last me until Christmas and that was it.  I wasn't exactly jealous of the other students being dropped off by their parents with a car-load of gear and then going home every other weekend to get their washing done but it did make me feel different.  If anything it made me stronger, since I had to sort things out for myself.  A quick weekly phone call home every Sunday from the public phone box outside our Halls was it.  Well there was the odd letter as well of course.  It seems very strange looking back at it now, when we're in constant contact with our Loved Ones through email, social media, txt...  Where did it all go wrong?

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

On the street

A busy place like Porto would seem like the ideal place to do some street photography.  Not as easy that bloke Eric Kim makes out, is all I can say.  It's not my usual thing, as y'all know, so here's a few of my rather feeble prints from this lovely city.  All on Ilford Warmtone RC paper, by the way - I've run out of lesser papers until I get an order together, which hopefully will happen any day soon.  It'll be a big order, this one - I need more lithable paper as well as ordinary paper and some chemicals as well.  Lots of chems.  It takes me ages to put the order together and price it, as postage to Ireland always seems to be problematic for English-based suppliers.  There are Irish suppliers but naturally they price in Euros and since Brexit the £ has taken a hit, so they're out of the question at the minute.   Anyway, here we go with today's offerings, such as they are:

It's fine if you live in NYC, or Tokyo or even London, I suspect - you know, the sort of place that is teeming with life and no-one cares if they've a camera pointed at them 'cos they're just so busy gettin' on.  Perhaps I need to chill a little, but I feel more than a little self-conscious when I'm touting a camera around the streets.  Let's face it, it's not like I'm fleet on foot and can just snap and run off before the snappee has even realised he or she has been captured...

And yes, for certain street photography you can ask the subject's permission, but that's put a whole different perspective on the thing.  I've done that in the past and it works well if the situation warrants it.

Monday, 21 August 2017


I can't resist another scene from our visit to Porto.  This one from the 'forgotten film' that I found sitting on the shelf on the darkroom and was pleasantly surprised by the frames held within.  From the Festival of St John:

Nikon/50mm/HP5+/ID-11/Split-grade printed on Ilford Warmtone RC if you're interested in that sort of thing.

Friday, 18 August 2017


As y'all know Missy&I had our annual Rathlin Island trip recently. If you don't know, Rathlin lies just off the North Antrim Coast, between Ireland and Scotland.  It's a small island, only a few miles in any direction but it is inhabited by people, seabirds and seals and is well worth a visit if you are in the area. The museum on the island is spectacular, I have to say - an upstairs bit and a downstairs bit but is just brilliant.  History?  Oh, history by the bucket-load.  Mostly horrible, mind you.

This is the view from near the West Lighthouse where all the seabirds are, looking South towards 'the mainland' of Ireland.  Funny - Ulster-folk talk about 'The Mainland', meaning Britain (that big bit of rock comprising Scotland&Wales&England) but I guess when on Rathlin 'the mainland' is Ireland.  The Liberties are a bit to the right of the land in the distance there and a bit inland, in case you were wondering.  We don't have a view of Rathlin from our front door, but drive a mile or so towards Portrush and we can see Rathlin, the Giant's Causeway and even the Paps of Jura on a good day.

The usual lith combination for me: Foma 131 fibre paper and EasyLith developer.  Untoned, in case you were wondering.

Hmm...lovely lithy tones, albeit the detail in the Sea Stacks are lost a bit.  I've a way to go yet with regard to perfecting contrast control in lith, but I'm getting there...

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Side-street, Porto

Just off Rua des Flores where our aparthotel was:

HP5+, Ilford Warmtone RC paper 10"x8"
As you can see there are a lot of ups-and-downs in Porto...rather too many, truth be told, when the old legs are used to the flat of Portstewart Strand but there you go.

Talking of flat, this print is a bit flat, but I find myself increasingly rebelling against the prevailing necessity for every snap to rendered at the highest contrast possible.  I blame Salgado but it's probably just jealously on my part.  It's not Salgado's fault, of course - if anything, it's more that most images are being viewed on computer screens these days...that backlit technology sure makes for snappy images but when you've a B&W print in your hand, or on the wall, you want to see some mid-tones.  Well I do, anyway.  Not that the print above is the finest example of mid-tones and I'm quite aware that I'm rambling incoherently so I'll stop now.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Seaweed and stuff

Just some seaweed and stuff on the little beach by Portstewart Prom. The Hound loves to rip the seaweed up for some reason...really goes for it, he does.
Note the alien claw entering from the left
On Ilford Warmtone RC, bleached back and then sepia toned.  I was trying to get the sand to look, well, sand-coloured.  From the Nikon so cropped. Well, the square format is well, just so appealing, don't you find.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Sardines, anyone?

Back to Porto - I found a film from our recent trip which I'd forgotten about.  Maybe better frames on it than the other Porto snaps what I showed you a while ago.

'Those sardines ready yet?' - Porto, festival of Sao Jaoa, June 2017.  A little bit of sepia toning seemed to work well.
When I see this I want to go back!  Isn't that the sign of a good holiday?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

You can ring my bell

Not just any doorbell, a posh one if you please.  This one was at the entrance of the Grand Hotel do Porto, on Rua de Santa Catarina.   I think it was a doorbell although I didn't test its functionality.

I wonder whose fingers have pressed this over the years...

I printed this one Foma paper and used lith developer, but it didn't come out great - so it was either a poor choice of materials or simply poor execution.  Yup, I was thinking the same - poor execution.  Anyway, to try to improve things I dunked the print in some hot selenium for a few minutes and the image came to life - as well as having a slight reddish tinge to it, as you can see. I think the scan has accentuated the colour shift a little, compared to the print.

If you're of a certain age the title of this post will perhaps have raised a smile.  A chart hit in the UK back in the late 70s it was very catchy, even if it wasn't something a teenage boy would ever have admitted liking.  You might be scratching your head, wondering, ' who was that singer?'.  I'll be honest - I had to Google it, but I'll save you the bother.  It was sung by the very glamorous Anita Ward.  There.  Or rather here if you want to see the video.  Over 3 million views - very impressive Ms Ward, very impressive, even if the lyrics are pretty funny from today's perspective, some 38 years later....something about 'Lay back and relax while I put away the dishes and then you and me can...'.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Made in Ireland

This particular model was made in Ireland and was first spotted around the North East Liberties of Coleraine around 2003.  Snapped up the other week and printed on Ilford Warmtone on the first Sunday in August 2017 - yesterday in fact.  It was a wet morning so it seemed like the only decent thing to do...

Missy, via the Nikon/50mm/HP5. 

Friday, 4 August 2017


It was the lines and shadows of the steps and railings that caught my eyes...and then just as I was about to press the shutter release the gentleman walked into the middle of the frame.  I wasn't unhappy at the time, truth be told, as people generally add something to a snap.  Of course since we're talking proper film photography here, I had to be content with delayed gratification - in this case more than a few weeks.  But sure isn't that half the fun?  I mean, all this fascination with instant feedback, eh? - surely the root cause of most of the problems in society these days...

A bit of cropping of the HP5+ negative out of the Nikon/50mm combination and this is what came out from the darkroom on Ilford Warmtone RC paper:

Shadows and steps and lower legs, Porto, June 2017
And take note of the quality of that heel strike.  These things are important for proper walking, y'know.  Ah, the things you learn when you spend time in the company of physical therapists, as is so often the case when one has ankylosing spondylitis.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Rathlin Island Ferry

Missy and I had our annual excursion to Rathlin a couple of weeks ago.  The weather wasn't great on the second day but the day we arrived things were very pleasant.  We did the RSPB Bird Sanctuary out at the West Lighthouse and in the evening we just dandered about Church Bay and watched the seals frolicking about.  Well, perhaps not exactly frolicking, more lazing around if truth be told, although one or two of the younger ones were swimming.  Whatever they were doing, it's always very calming to sit and watch them for a while.

There was a fair bit of weather around but it mostly seemed to be out West, towards the mainland.  I snapped up the old Rathlin Island Ferry as it came in.  This is what came out on Foma paper in lith developer:

Church Bay, Rathlin Island, July 2017.  Hasselblad, 50mm lens, HP5+

Monday, 31 July 2017

Doorway, Porto

I got into the darkroom yesterday morning for a couple of hours - used up the last of the Foma 131 paper, which just had to be paired up with Easylith developer...

Nikon, 50mm, HP5+

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Walking and Talking on Rua de Santa Caterina

As I waited for the wimminfolk in my life to extricate themselves from some boutique or other in Porto's main shopping street, I tried a bit of street photography.  Not really my forte but sometimes you have to move outside your comfort zone.

Not the best shot, or print in the world, but probably not the worst either.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Watching TV...

...the other evening, lying on the rug as one might do when one has ankylosing spondylitis and sitting for long periods of time is not usually a Good Idea, my eye was drawn to this lamp and the shadows it was casting.  So after dark, when everyone else was in bed, I hunted around for a tripod and set up the 'Blad.   I know 'real photographers' use tripods all the time - I see them doing it.  But I'm not really a tripod sort of person (unless the Sinar is getting an airing), so I had to go up to the attic and hunt around a bit until it revealed itself to me.

Anyway, back to the lamp in question.  I did a couple of prints of it, trying to get the subtlety of the lighting that my eyes saw.  Not sure I captured it completely faithfully, but these were the best of the bunch.

First attempt, after sepia toning - too much, I thought.

Second attempt - better?

Second attempt after sepia toning.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017


Another print from my dander about St John's Churchyard the other day.  The strong sunlight was illuminating the leaves on this tree which I thought might make for an interesting print.  Turned out OK, on Ilford Warmtone RC paper:

Looks like leaves of a Willow tree of some variety.  On the 'Blad, 50mm lens, HP5+

Friday, 21 July 2017

Celtic Cross

I had a dander about St John's RC church in Coleraine a couple of weeks ago while Missy was learning how to sing, or play piano or something.  It was a very bright day, which I don't tend to like for taking snaps - good job, eh? living where I do.  Not that I like dull, flat light either - somewhere inbetween is perfect.  But you have to take what you get, don't you.

Anyway, just for something a bit different, I stuck a close-up lens on the front of the Hasselblad.  Kind of a dumb thing to do, I know, when you've a very sharp lens on front of a lovely big 6x6 neg, but there you go.

Detail from St John's Churchyard in Killowen, Coleraine.  8"x10" print, Kentmere VC Select paper, sepia tone

I kind of like this one.  The three cheeky chaps in the foreground, hands on hips and then the big Celtic Cross looming large in the background.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Majestic Cafe, Porto

The Majestic Cafe on the main drag in Porto looked the part, I have to say.  Lovely architecture and the place was buzzing with staff who were dressed to the nines.  

I got me borders all wrong on this 8"x10" print on Kentmere VC Select paper, so I cut them off.

We didn't 'do' the Majestic for lunch that day - oh no, much too sensible for us, that place.  We went into a wee caff opposite for a light bite, a wee caff which turned into a bigger place once inside, Tardis-like, y'know.  Just on that subject I hear that the new Doctor is a woman!  Imagine!  Anyway, the cafe opposite the Majestic turned out just OK, a bit disappointing really, although I got a snap or two off which you might see sometime later on this place.  The good news was that after our light bite my wife and Missy continued with their shopping frenzy and I was left to me own devices.  So I wandered a bit further along the Rua de Santa Catarina.  As the shops petered out towards the top I came across some sort of Art Gallery thing.  I decided to venture in, but realised there was a man sleeping, or slumped, across the entrance.  As it was all a bit quiet and not too many people about I beat a dignified retreat and headed back down to the shops.  But all was not lost for I came upon a small YellowKorner Photographic Gallery and had a lovely conversation with the girl looking after it. There was some nice work on show - the work of this guy in particular caught my eye.  

Monday, 17 July 2017

High hopes

I had high hopes for this one as at the time the street scene looked pretty amazing:

Street scene in Porto during the festival of St John, 2017, 8x10 print
It is what it is.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Down by the river

Down by the Douro river in Porto:

The same steps as you saw the other day, in case you were wondering.  The young couple you might just be able to make out canoodling in the background was an added bonus.  As I walked around a bit to compose the shot I was worried they would break apart in embarrassment of being spotted by the old guy with the film camera but I needn't have worried - you know what young hearts are like in Mediterranean countries.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Shadows and lines

The strong Portuguese light on these steps in Porto caught my eye:

FP4+ on Ilford Cooltone paper (I think)

I know, not quite on a par with Metzker.

I was expecting more light like this in Porto but a lot of the days the sun was kind of hazy, coming through thin cloud.  In anticipation of better light I'd armed myself with a bucket-load of FP4+ but given the haze combined with the narrow streets and high buildings of the old city it was actually on the slow side.  It probably wouldn't have mattered so much had I the M6 with me, since it is much more usable at slow speeds.  But I only had the Nikon with me, so I abandoned FP4 in favour of my go-to film, HP5+.

Monday, 10 July 2017

The usual suspect

Here she is, pretending to take a phone shot from our restaurant in Porto.  It was festival night and down by the river, which was normally extremely busy, was absolutely heaving.  It took us a few days before we cottoned on to the fact that if you didn't grab a table at 7pm on the dot you stood little chance of getting one at all.  This particular evening we'd sat too long over a pre-dinner snifter and by the time we started looking for a table it was hopeless - well, outside at any rate.  Eventually we got one but it was inside and upstairs and just a little uncomfortably warm, in spite of the fans.  Still, no matter, we had a lovely view of the Douro river and all the Port manufacturers' caves on the opposite bank - a scene which Missy here was trying to capture on her phone:

Another lith print, on Foma 131 paper

Friday, 7 July 2017

Stonework, Porto

Another from the lith session in the darkroom the other day:

Detail from a building in Porto - I can't remember which building, but probably one of the many impressive churches that the city is host to

The lith always works well with stone-work, to my eyes anyway.  I have to admit I'm developing a bit of an obsession with this lith stuff - it might be the perfect antidote to this fixation with sharpness we see everywhere nowadays.  Lith just adds a bit of mystery to the whole thing...

Wednesday, 5 July 2017


These waterlilies were floating in the pond of the garden in our aparthotel in Porto.  Came out rather nice on Foma paper and Easylith developer:

Waterlilies, Porto, 2017

Monday, 3 July 2017

What would Roy do?

I play a little game from time to time when I'm out and about with the camera.  I call it 'What would Roy do?'.  The Roy I am referring to is my good blogger friend Roy Karlsvik - him of Between Light and Shadow (which is well worth a visit).  Roy is, in my opinion, a master at spotting a good shot when you think there's nothing there.  He sees shape and form where there isn't any and as you might expect, light and shadow.  Anyway, a quick nosey around his blog and you'll see what I'm trying (very badly) to say.

So when I think there's nothing of interest to snap, I ask myself 'What would Roy do?' and as well as putting a smile on my face I find myself looking a little bit differently at the scene in front of me.  'Cos let's face it, there is form and shape and light in most things in front of your eyes...sometimes shadow too.

This is one of of those 'What would Roy do?' snaps.  Taken from the top deck of the Porto sightseeing open-top tour bus as we drove around the city, seeing the sights as one does when on holiday.  The bus had stopped beside this balcony and I thought there might be something worth snapping up, what with all that geometry and what have you.  So here we are, lith-developed on some Foma paper:

Balcony in Porto, 2017

Friday, 30 June 2017

A parallel universe

Someway along the busiest shopping street in Porto I happened upon a rather interesting building.  Sandwiched between two retail stores was a very unassuming entrance with a sign proclaiming 'Grand Hotel do Porto'. What else could I do but wander in...

Going through the doors into the lobby was like entering a parallel universe - outside was a bright, noisy, busy street bathed in sunlight, whereas inside the place was cool, church-like quiet and very, very elegant.  And there was me in me long shorts, trainers, white short-sleeved shirt, red face (we Irish are inclined to go red at the first hint of sun, y'know) and camera.  Hmm, I thought to myself as the two men behind the desk looked up - 'I wonder if they're going to stop me'.  But I acted as nonchalantly as I could (given the circumstances) and kept walking.  They didn't speak and I didn't make eye contact.

As I got further into the hotel it became clear the place was not your typical hotel.  It was very dark, with wood-panelled walls adorned with some lovely black-and-white photographs - portraits of famous people (and some I didn't recognise).  Very nice it was - I spent a good bit of time wandering around this impromptu gallery, getting some ideas on composition for when I next take a portrait.  Across the hall was a small sitting area - there were a couple of gentlemen sitting reading - they didn't look up.  Further along was 'The Windsor Bar', where again there were photographs hanging - this time the unmistakable face of King Edward VIII before he became the Duke of Windsor after abdicating in favour of Wallis Simpson.  I didn't spend too long looking at these photographs :) but clearly this area was marked as a tribute to The Duke. I'm guessing he frequented the hotel, perhaps more than once. I wonder if he paid his bill - I assume he did, hence the rather lavish tribute to him (a bit over the top if you ask me, but then again, no-one did).

Clearly I wasn't going to take photographs inside the hotel, so I made do with a couple of snaps on the way out.  The fancy handles on the old ironwork gates at the front found their way onto some HP5+ inside the Nikon with its standard 50mm lens attached.  Here's how they came out when split-grade printed on Ilford Warmtone RC paper:

10"x8" print of the handles on the entrance to the Grand Hotel do Porto

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Dorothy was right

Back home now, from our week in Porto.  Enjoyed the week enormously.  Although it's very hilly, our little aparthotel was right bang in the middle of the action, so perfect really.  We still did a fair bit of tramping around - well you have to really, don't you.

But as lovely as Porto was, it is very good to be back.  Dorothy was right, y'know - there's no place like home. It's a lot cooler of course (17 degrees vs 28) but as my mother would say, 'It's a nice air' can breathe.  And I missed the clouds - really!  I mean, all that blue sky - it's not natural. It gets boring after a while.

Have a bunch of films still to develop but got 2 done the other night.  Had a little session in the darkroom last night.  I don't know if I was a bit rusty or what, but everything was a little disappointing.  Actually that's not correct - it was a big bit disappointing.  Perhaps I had me hopes up too high for some wonderful masterpieces but as yet I haven't come across any.  Ah well, maybe in the next batch, eh?  We live in hope...

This gives some idea of the general chaos in the streets during the festival of São João (St John).  Busy, busy streets, temporary fires set up for the cooking of sardines (or rack of pork if you prefer).  I'm not a great fan of hordes of people, as I'm not too steady on my feet at the best of times, but I have to say I felt very safe in Porto.  I know this shot has loads of hand-shake in it - I should have pushed the HP5+ a bit but I was half-way through the film so it was too late.  Probably around 1/4 second, hence the problem.  I was in two minds whether to take the M6 or not but opted for the Nikon FM3a.  In retrospect the M6 would probably have been the better option, certainly for shots like this anyway.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Still not here

Last full day in the lovely city of Porto. Public holiday today, something to do with St John the Baptist. Big celebrations last night, I think everyone in Portugal was in town, or so it seemed. The thing to do is tap everyone you meet on the head with a plastic hammer - it seemed to work well, everyone was in good spirits.

Last of the series of prints I made from the new growth Ash tree. This one on Art300 paper again, but toned this time - firstly with mild sepia, then selenium. Toned well it did - strong colour shifts in both:

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

I'm not here

Things are quiet on the blogging front as I'm not here. I'm on me hols, in the lovely city of Porto. I was here years ago at an academic conference and am very happy to return. Lovely place, lovely people.

So this is a print I did a couple of weeks ago, but this time on MG Art 300 fibre paper. Lovely stuff.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Those trees again

One I've posted a few times before, but a new print made last weekend:

The dodgy left-hand edge is purely a result of me scanner - this is a 9.5"x12" print, so it doesn't quite fit on the scanner bed.  Anyway, that's not important.

The bottom line is I should take more photographs, but from time to time when I get a compelling urge to print (pretty frequently these days I must admit) I just pick through my neg files and see what leaps out.  This one has leapt out a few times but this time I stuck it on some Foma 131 paper and sloshed some Moersch Easylith developer over it for about 3-4 minutes.  There's more detail in the print than the scan - obviously!  :)  It's not particularly lithy but the overall print is decent enough.  It's not toned or anything - the Foma paper naturally comes out very warm in the lith developer.

I like the sunlight hitting the trees randomly through the scene.  There's a path there, of sorts but you get the impression there might be many other paths too.  Like life itself, eh?

Taken a couple of years ago on  a walk through Coleraine's "Trim Trail", near Somerset - across the river from Mountsandel where those oldest people in Ireland used to live.  A lovely place to walk at any time of year, to be fair.  It's been a while since I've been there - Note to self: must go again soon...and take another snap or two.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The ideal weekend retreat?

I snapped up this scene a while back but never printed it for some reason - until last week that is.   OK so it won't win any awards, but it's one of those photographs that I have an emotional connection to:

Now doesn't that look like a nice place to live?  Well it does to me.  It's in Dunlewey, Donegal, very close to the old church that I snapped up a couple of years ago when on a trip with my mate Dr C.  This is the gatehouse to a serious Country Estate which lies to the south of Lough Dunlewey - notice the 'Keep Out' gates leading past the house.  I daresay a mile or two up the lane there's a big pile of bricks arranged in rather an impressive form.   There are quite a few grand estates in Donegal - well, in Ireland as a whole to be honest.  Personally I have no need nor want for a big castle thing, but this gate-lodge caught my eye.  The tranquillity of the setting, the babbling brook leading down to the lough, the trees - well it all seemed pretty perfect to my eyes.  So I snapped it up on the M6 with the 35mm Summarit lens. 

The Summarit range of Leica lenses are the cheap ones, in case you didn't know.  Of course cheap in Leica-land is anything but.  But it draws beautifully on film, this piece of glass does.  And it's a thing of beauty itself - taking 39mm filters it is really petite.  Not the fastest lens on the planet, with a maximum aperture of f/2.5 but I find it absolutely fine for the sort of snaps I take.  With the M6 I find I can handhold at speeds way lower than anything else, it being mirrorless and what have you.  Well, enough for the size of prints I make, anyway.

This one was printed on 9.5"x12" Foma 131 fibre paper, followed by a dunk in some Moersch Lith developer.  I was pretty happy with the outcome, apart from the burnt-out highlight there in the sky.  One of those artefacts that if you don't see it, it ain't there...but once you do see it, it's hard not to look at it.  Funny thing that...

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Easy Rider

This lovely lady was parked up on Portstewart Prom during the bike race week:

On Foma Nature fibre paper, toned in sepia giving it lovely chocolatey-brown blacks, if you know what I mean

I presume it's a Harley what with that big V-engine and those beautifully curved chromed pipes.  I used to know my bikes, since my dad was into his Triumph T500C in a big way.  He had it before he got married and sold it in order to pay for the honeymoon, or the house or something.  Then a couple of years later he bought it back and kept it until the end of his days.  On a weekend morning he would get up early and ride it to Belfast when the roads were empty - probably less than an hour away at the speeds he would have used :).  He'd call into Marks&Spencers (the only one in the country in those days) and get something different for breakfast.  He'd be back home to bring my mum a cup of tea and a croissant before she even knew he was away.

As a lad I had various posters on my bedroom wall from my dad's copy of MotorCycleNews that he bought regularly.  Ivan Mauger (speedway) and the famous Giacomo d'Agostini (what a name!) on his MV Agusta were ones I remember.  Barry Sheene was a bit more recent but I think he had his place on the wall too.  Anything Italian was, of course, exotic - and how could it not be with names like the Laverda Jota or Benelli Sei, with 6 cylinders - mad!  A quick look at the classifieds shows a 1977 Jota currently for sale at £14,000, so clearly it has achieved iconic status.

Unfortunately not all Italian machines lived up to the dream.  My Uni mate Simon had a Moto Guzzi for a while when we were undergrads in Bath.  Great in principle but in practice the electrics were shot - manys the time him and I pushed it up the steep hill outside our digs in order for him to jump-start the thing before riding it non-stop back to his home in Liverpool for the weekend.  Good times...for the most part, anyway.  It was a big brute of a thing to push uphill, that I do remember...

Monday, 5 June 2017


Taken during a dander about in the spring - the beginnings of new growth in the ash tree at the bottom of our garden:

On Foma Nature fibre paper, via HP5+ on the 'Blad.

I did a second print and dunked it some sepia toner just to see what gave.  I think the bleach was a bit strong as it worked fast - I could probably have pulled it a little earlier:

The two prints are very different - I can't quite decide which I like best.  The element of mystery is better in the first one, I think, but the contrast seems a little low by comparison to the second, which has a lot more sparkle to it.  In the toned print, though, the background is too bright and detracts from the main subject. 

Friday, 2 June 2017


This is what happens when you walk around your gaff looking for something to photograph - in this case, a rusty nail sticking out of a 100-year old stone wall, once upon a time lime-washed but long since neglected:

This was on the 'Blad with a close-up filter on.  Foma 131 paper in the usual Moersch Easylith developer.  Lovely stuff to work with I have to say.