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+