Monday, 27 February 2017


Not sure what this growth is on the trunk of this tree, but it and the bark caught my eye:

Part of a tree from Somerset Forest, just up from Mountsandel to the South of Coleraine.

This is another lith print, from my darkroom session the other day.  The usual combination, Moersch Easylith on Foma 131 paper.

Friday, 24 February 2017

In the mood

I was in the mood for a bit of lith developing the other day.  It's a slow process - anything up to 10 minutes in the developer, so you don't get a lot to show for a couple of hours in the darkroom.  The results, however, can be well worth the wait.

An old one, taken up in the Antrim Hills a couple of years ago on the Franka.  This old tractor had seen better days, but was perfect for bringing in the turf.  

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Lonely days

It's quiet around The Liberties at the is doing nothing, fairly mild temperatures for the time of year, grey skies, not much wind.  Even the garden birds aren't around much after the morning looking for a mate, or a good place for a nest, perhaps.

The rabbits are pretty active, though.  Digging holes everywhere...hundreds of them.  There's a wee young one outside in the back garden as I type this.  Very cute, it is, about the size of your hand.   There are foxes around, though - we can hear them screeching at night.  Sends The Hound barking mad, but they don't seem to care about him.  Perhaps they know he can't get out at them, or maybe they're smart enough to know they could out-run him easily.  We came across one in the field behind us a few years ago when out for a walk.  I thought The Hound was fast - well he is, for a dog, being a border collie.  But these fox-things are in a different league altogether...out of sight before The Hound got into second gear - he had no chance.

I got into the darkroom Sunday morning for a session when everyone else was still lazing about.  It wasn't great, but I didn't mind as I took my time and enjoyed it.  I had no particular agenda, other than to see if there were any masterpieces hiding on that roll of 120 film I developed last week.  There weren't as it turns out.  At least not this morning.  I've a couple of prints drying and later on I'll scan one and put it here for your viewing pleasure:

Somerset Wood, or what's left of it.  Every time I go there seem to be fewer trees there, more cut down.  There doesn't seem to be any re-planting going on, so not sure this is going to have a good outcome.

Monday, 20 February 2017

A house for wee folk

Most days are pretty grey at the minute, but when the sun breaks through the light is lovely.  This wee house sits outside in our back garden and is ready for occupation, although it is probably a little too well ventilated to be comfortable at this time of year.  Still, this being Ireland, you never know when a leipreach├ín or three might happen by and take a fancy to it - do it up, y'know.  A fixer-upper for wee folk, I guess you could call it:

On Kentmere VC Select paper, via WT-10 developer and a bit of sepia/HP5+/ID-11.  

I do know this is a totally boring snap, by the way.  I seem to have all my energies for the darkroom these days and not much for behind the camera.  One result is that since the start of 2017 all the images on North East Liberties have been of prints. It wasn't a real big thing - there's always been a mix of scanned and printed images on here - but I've been gradually moving in this direction for a while and it just sort of happened.  
I guess all blogs evolve in some way or another - 'tis the nature of the thing.  Jim Grey over there in Indiana has been blogging a bit about blogging recently - very interesting reading it is, too.  I haven't really gone into the whole blogging thing in any great depth - I just think of This Place as my journal, it documents my photographic journey, warts and all.  I don't pretend to have any great expertise in the thing, I just enjoy it immensely.  It might be the digital age we are living in, but we all know the real world is analogue and that's still where the magic is.

Friday, 17 February 2017

How the other half live

Things seem to be improving on the leg front, after a long couple of weeks of not moving about much.  Not only did I manage a short stroll in Kilrea forest the other day, I also got a film developed and a couple of prints made this morning.  Here's one of them:

A couple of logs - freshly cut by the look of things.  I think I was wide open at f/2.8 on the 80mm lens (square-shooter box camera thing).  HP5/ID-11 on Kentmere paper.  8x10 print, split-grade printed.

This afternoon I took the Hound to the beach for some exercise (him, not me).  It was horrible, since there were loads of people there, it being half-term and all.  Cars everywhere.  That's one of the reasons I usually go first thing in the morning, after the school run, when there's only the regulars about.

But it wasn't all bad.  As I got out of the car I noticed a guy trying to play football with his son - nothing unusual in that, except that the guy was on crutches and clearly looked in less than perfect health.  It took me all of about 2 seconds to realise that I was looking at a fellow sufferer of ankylosing spondylitis.  Most of us oldies with AS look the same - fused spine, poor mobility, 'all in one piece' - you get the general idea.  So I sidled over to him and engaged him in conversation.  Most times we're all too pleased to talk to someone else with AS, since we are few and far between and Nigel was no exception.

Half an hour later and I was wondering just how this guy keeps so upbeat.  I thought I was having a hard time lately but things were firmly put into perspective when he started telling me his troubles.  Hips replaced, one knee, several toes 'sorted out', stomach ulcers (due to years of taking anti-inflammatory meds), eye problems.  He used to be a big lad, over 6 feet in height, but had lost about 7 inches over the years.  And then there was his neck operation about 18 months ago.  His neck had all but fused due to the AS, but the slight movement in one joint was enough to put pressure on his spinal cord so he went into hospital to have it fused surgically, complete with metal plates and what-have-you.  Then came the all-too-common post-operation infection, which almost did for him.  They were threatening to take all the metalwork out in order to try to kill the infection and then go at it again.  In the end this wasn't necessary, but he lay in hospital for nine full weeks, eventually being let home still with an IV line still attached.  Nurse visits 3 times a day until the infection finally got sorted.  And there he was today, prodding a football around with his crutches with his 16-year-old son.

It's a bugger of a thing, this ankylosing spondylitis.  And yet in many ways I know we're the lucky ones - it won't kill us, there are worse things out there.  But it is a game-changer - although there's a lot more knowledge about the disease today than ever before and of course the drugs are so much better nowadays.  Anyway, Nigel and I had a good old chat about the damn thing, which cheered us up no end.  I joke, of course, but it is always agreeable to meet a fellow sufferer, someone who understands immediately what you've gone through.  Sometimes it's good to talk.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

The Lads

I was in a printing mood the other morning so just picked through one of the negative files and shone some light through the first thing that caught my attention:

My father on the left, nearly blending in with the tree trunk.  Don't know who his friend, the Oscar Wilde look-alike is on the right, but I like his style.  From the look of things, I would hazard a guess this was taken sometime in the 1930s. Goodness knows where this was - not Ireland, for sure, with that architecture behind.  Probably somewhere in Southern Europe - France or Italy.  He liked travelling.  And yes, it's on the wall - obviously!

The negative is huge, by the way - I measured it 11.5cm x 7cm.  This was almost a contact print on 10x8 paper, the enlarger head was very low to the base even with an 80mm lens.  Allowing for some latitude with regard to the negative border, which was a bit hard to identify, it still seems an unusual negative size - very wide compared to the height.  A Google search gave me this site: which seems to list every film size known to man (and then some).  It's not an exact match, but the closest I could get to this one was 2 1/2" x 4 1/4" (616 in Kodak-speak), which appeared in 1932 and therefore would seem to fit.

When I have access to a few of these great old negs in different formats - 6x6, 6x7, 6x9, the odd strange one like above and then some 4"x5" large format, it is really, really hard to even look at a 35mm neg.  35mm is so small by comparison - it's a toy format in the darkroom, really!  I recall reading on Andrew Sanderson's blog that at one time he saw himself never using 35mm again, so content he was printing with larger formats.  But then at some point in the future he 're-discovered' 35mm and shot away quite happily with it.  Like a lot of stuff, it's horses for courses.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Laid up

I'm laid up at the moment.  My leg is sick.  I don't know what happened  - perhaps I banged it on something but now veins and what-have-you are playing up and I've been told to rest the leg, keep it elevated and stick lots of ice on it.  It's been over a week now and if there is one thing I'm not good at it's lying about the place doing nothing.  That's not to say I do anything important when I'm up&about, mind you, but you know what I mean. I'm not a patient patient.  So...back to the doctor today to see what gives and why the damn thing isn't getting better.

So I've nothing to report, really. Well, ok, I've been reading books and thinking, so suppose that's not nothing.  Wasn't it that Aristotle dude who commented that the beauty of thinking is that it can be done without moving?  Someone like that once said something like that, I'm sure.  Anyway, I mentioned the Andrew Sanderson book the other day. It was part of a job lot I acquired through a FADU friend. The other books were the Kodak Book of Large Format Photography and a Bruce Barnbaum book, "The Art of Photography". The latter is a big book (340-odd pages) and Mr Barnbaum, like Mr Sanderson, knows his onions. Oh yes. There are quite a few images which made me wonder why I even bother lifting a camera to my eye let alone try to get something out of it onto paper.

Another oldie you may have seen before, although this time it's prnted on Kentmere paper, via WT-10 developer, with a sepia wash. Prague, 1938, courtesy of The Uncle.  Not bad for a near 80-year-old neg.

One chapter of Barnbaum's book has particular relevance to my current debate with myself vis-a-vis the search for the perfect negative.  Chapter 13 (it would be - the number 13 has always been big in my life) is titled 'Exploding Photographic Myths' and is, my friends, a worthwhile read should you ever come across this book in your local lending library. Mr Barnbaum takes on issues relating to composition, light, exposure, developing, contact sheets and a bit more.  Loosely, his views can be summed up as 'Ignore the rules' while at the same time he gives simple, no-nonsense, practical advice about what should be done.  Perfect.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017


An old one - one from my Uncle's Hungarian series, from the 1930s.  I just fancied seeing how it would turn out on paper:

From a 6x6 neg, on Kentmere paper, sepia toned
Two boys are just visible in the background, playing cricket.

Friday, 3 February 2017


Not the outer-space kind of contact, more the dark-space kind. I did a few contact prints the other day, to see if it might help my analysis of rubbishy negs which are hard to print.  Here we go then...

A set of negs from 2014, everything a tad murky, not much sparkle to them

I picked out a couple to investigate: 4th row, first image (my mate Dr C).  With my enlarger exposure probe the contrast came out a disappointing 0.31 and an ideal grade of nearly 8!  Hmm.  The next neg, to his right (bridge), didn't fare much better.  Contrast 0.53, grade 5.7.   Never going to happen...

2015 - a bit more life to them, but exposure all over the place here
Probing the first neg on row 3 above, we have contrast of 0.87, predicted grade 3.4 - better!  Last neg on row 4 (yours truly and my wife in Eastbourne), contrast 0.77, grade 4.2.  First neg, last row: contrast 0.5, ideal grade 6.  So, as is obvious from the contact print, a very inconsistent set of negs here.

2016 - consistent, at least!

Looking at this set of negs from last summer, the contact print is a little dark but the negs seem a little more consistent.  Probing the second neg on row 2 gave a contrast of 0.72, grade 4.5.  Fifth neg on row 3 (the two girls): contrast 0.79 at grade 4.  Fourth neg on the last row (cottages): contrast 0.71, grade 4.5.  So as expected from the look of the contact print, the negs are all pretty similar in contrast.  But, all still a bit on the soft side, hence the rather high grade of paper required to get anything half decent from them.

So where does this leave me?  Up the proverbial creek, methinks, but perhaps I've got a paddle and so maybe things aren't completely hopeless.  No, it's definitely been a worthwhile exercise and has confirmed my thoughts about my workflow.  This hybrid thing, scanning the negs and previewing the scanned images in software just isn't giving me the sort of feedback I need in order to have an easier time in the darkroom.  And that's fine by me - having spent most of my working life in front of a computer I'm happy to leave that to others and to spend my time pottering about in the warm glow of an Ilford safelight with a 902 orange filter.