Monday, 29 April 2019

Beach End

This strange couple are at the start of the East Strand in Portrush - although the name on the lintel of the old cottage implies we're at the end of the beach, not the start.  (I suppose if you started out at the White Rocks about a mile to the West and walked towards Portrush then yes, technically you would be at the end of the beach here but it's an odd way of looking at it if you ask me).  Anyway, I'm not quite sure what the planners were thinking here - but that implies that planners actually do think and based on some of their decisions in this part of the world I'm not so sure about that.  The contrast of these two buildings could hardly be greater:

'Beach End', Portrush 2019.  Adox MCC paper

I like the fact that in 'Beach End' the windows are open and hey - it actually looks like it's being lived in.  The reality is that the windows are probably open as the place is damp and musty but let's not let the reality of the situation impinge on the romantic notion that the wee old place is full of character and much, much nicer than the brand new apartments next door, what with their big view-tastic windows and balconies and central heating and all mod cons...

Thursday, 25 April 2019

The times they are a-changing

Another print from my 'New Topographics' series on this part of the world.  The North Antrim coast is, I'm sorry to say, becoming a product of its own success - rocky coastline, ruined castles, history by the bucketload and miles of (relatively empty) sandy beaches.  Oh, and golf courses.  Don't forget the golf courses - dozens of them.  Plus a few small towns where you can eat and drink. Big money is flowing in from Belfast and beyond.  One consequence of that is the development of numerous blocks of apartments - not always done in the most sympathetic of ways, it has to be said.

The one pictured here is a stone's throw from Royal Portrush Golf Club, soon to host the 148th Open Championship.  No doubt Tiger and Rory and all the lads will be there - along with over 100,000 spectators.  Hmm.  I think I'll be staying well clear of Portrush for that week...

Old and New, Portrush, 2019.  Adox MCC paper.

I liked this view and took a couple of shots of it - the contrast between the old stonework and the newly rendered glass-and-concrete structure appealed to me. The building to the left, nearly out of shot is a church and the stone building to the right belongs to it - some sort of gatehouse I guess.  Pity about the Velux window in the slated roof but there you go, these things happen.  The block of apartments in the background is only just finished and prices are eye-watering for this part of the world - £300k+. I think they're hoping Tiger will happen by and some loose change will fall out of his pocket as he passes...

Just beyond lie the sand dunes of Portrush East Strand, which stretches for about a mile to the White Rocks near Dunluce Castle.  It is a rather lovely part of the world to find yourself in, summer or winter, I have to say.  Better in the winter, though. 

And I rather liked the graves and headstones just visible near the new build - something for the new occupants of the apartments to reflect on when they get bored looking at the sand dunes.

Monday, 22 April 2019


I believe that's what they call it, anyway.  From a couple of weeks ago - where else but Portstewart Strand, looking towards the West and with the famous Mussenden Temple standing out on the headland:

Portstewart Strand, early April.  Ilford Warmtone Fibre paper

I pointed the Hasselblad almost directly into the sun - well, you have to sometimes, don't you, just to see what comes out on the old film.  It was late afternoon and the strong wind - the very strong wind - made it seem like sub-zero temperatures in spite of the strong sunlight and so we didn't go very far up the beach.  I think it was a Saturday as there were quite a few people and dogs out and about.

In the darkroom I made a straight print but I thought those highlights needed a little perking up so I dunked the print into some pot. ferri. for a short time.  It seemed to do the trick.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Stems by the lake

I snapped this up a while ago on a family walk through Downhill Forest, near Castlerock.  It was mid-afternoon but the light was fading, it being winter and all.  For a moment, though, the sun put in one last appearance and illuminated these stalks or stems at the edge of the lake.  That made them really stand out out from the water behind, which was in shadow:

Stems at Downhill Lake, on 11"x14" Ilford Warmtone fibre paper

Sometimes I struggle to get really deep blacks on Ilford Warmtone fibre paper - or at least the batch of paper that I have, which is matt surface and was bought from an 'old pro' who was selling the last of his paper and trays a couple of years ago.  I don't know if it's me or perhaps the paper is a bit old. I've had serious dry-down issues with this paper in the past, you might remember.  Anyway, on this occasion, in order to help the blacks along a bit I dunked the print in hot selenium for a short time - not too long as I didn't want a significant colour shift.  I think I got away with it.

If I print it again I will probably try to burn in the top left corner of the print to remove the faint trace of foliage just visible there.  Otherwise I'm reasonably happy with this one.

Monday, 15 April 2019

A ruined Castle and a World Heritage Site

I don't know what wrong with me these days - all these landscapes I keep taking.  I think I might need therapy before it becomes problematic...

I was interested to see how this would turn out, truth be told.  Missy and I have taken recently to team up on short road trips with the camera.  I've given her the little Sekonic light meter to use - so she reels of the appropriate shutter speed and aperture while I compose and shoot.  Seems to work well so far.  On this particular day we ended up driving past Portrush and onto the Coast Road, which would eventually take you to Belfast if you were so inclined.  But we pulled into a 'viewing point/picnic area' a couple of miles down the road which I knew had a decent view of Dunluce Castle (that's the ruined Castle bit from the title) and the Giant's Causeway (that's the World Heritage Site bit).  There was only a couple of other cars (and the obligatory camper van) there and I ended up pulling in fairly close to one of the cars.  I was vaguely aware of a young person, or persons in the car and noticed it pulled out almost immediately after I parked up.  Missy told me the couple in the car had been kissing - kissing, I tell you!  I'm sure they were probably thinking 'Alone at last' before some old dude pulled up and exited his car with a big old film camera in tow and ruined their moment.  I'm pretty sure they're not reading this blog post but if they are and it was you then I humbly apologise...

But I digress.  As I got out of the car I realised (a) it was absolutely freezing and (b) it was blowing a gale.  A proper gale it was, too.  I quickly staggered over to the edge of the picnic area and propped the 'Blad against a wooden fence post to try to get some stability but I didn't have high hopes at 1/125 of a second.  In the end, it looks reasonably sharp in this 9.5"x12" print:

Dunluce Castle and The Giant's Causeway, Adox MCC paper

If you're wondering what's going on with the sky it's the same issue as with the print in the last post.  This dark band appears down the centre line of some of the negatives on this roll.  A bit of asking around would seem to suggest that it could be the result of uneven development.  How this could happen in a 120 film developed in a Paterson tank I don't really know, other than the possibility that the film might have detached itself from the spiral grooves during the loading process.  I don't remember anything particularly unusual as I loaded it, mind you - but it is possible.  The banding is less noticeable in some negatives and in other negatives it doesn't appear at all, so clearly not all the film is affected, which might rule out other possibilities such as exhausted fixer. 

I've never had a problem before with loading a film but I guess there's always a first time - and of course it would happen on a film which had a good proportion of masterpieces on it.  Typical, eh?

Thursday, 11 April 2019

New Topographics

I gave a short talk to the Club the other day on one of my favourite photographers - Robert Adams.  He came to light in the 70s with the New Topographics movement - he worked in Colorado, big open plains and skies and not much else.  For some reason his work really speaks to me - he is a master at visual story-telling, in my eyes anyway.  And he's pretty handy with the old words, too. You can read about him here (it's a long post but a good one).

Anyway, I had my New Topographics hat on the other day when I went off around the coastal towns of Portstewart and Portrush.  About half-way between the towns this scene jumped up and found its way through an orange filter and inside the 'Blad and onto a small square of HP5+:

Portrush.  On Adox MCC paper, straight print

It's still wet, as you can see.  That's 'cos it was printed about 5 minutes ago, which makes this post about as up-to-date as it can be.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Summer's here (?)

Under a bit of pressure this weekend due to Club work - and garden work, since Saturday was a rather pleasant day.  We even got the BBQ out for the first time this year, which is always a good feeling.  And the other big news was the first sighting of a swallow on Saturday afternoon, which was very early compared to the last couple of years (early May).  I doubt that means that summer is really here yet - it was pretty cold again yesterday. 

Anyway, here's an old one for you, from Positano last year but now mounted, ready to go into tonight's club competition.  Not that it will be placed or win or anything like that - I realised a while ago that my prints are just there to make up the numbers.  That's OK - actually that's more than OK, otherwise I might start getting a little worried.  It'll be the only darkroom print there, which is a little disappointing. the last couple of months two members have gone out and acquired a film camera from the Auction Site, so you never know what the future might bring...

Window in Positano

I say 'ready' but it's not quite.  There are a couple of marks on the print near the top right, as you can see.  This is a result of leaving it too long in the dry mount press - way too long.  I can safely say that I've learnt that lesson, by the way. So I need to get the old Spotone out and try to fix it up as best I can.  Patience and a steady hand are required...hmm.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Runkerry Strand, Portballintrae (and another rant)

About a month ago we were out for a late afternoon walk in Portballintrae.  I had the 'Blad with me for good luck. The light was strong and the clouds were quite unusual - just hanging low in a line across the sky as if they were suspended by some invisible wire:

Runkerry Strand, Portballintrae. HP5+ on Adox MCC paper
Just over the headland lies the Giant's Causeway - 'owned' as it is by the National Trust, or so they like to think.  When I lived in the South of England I rather liked the National Trust - they seemed to do good work, purchasing, restoring and maintaining big old houses and grounds and then opening them to the public (for a fee, of course).  I didn't have too much problem with the fee in those days - it seemed reasonable, since you could see where the money was being spent.  But I've gone full circle with the NT - I'm no longer a fan.  Take two properties the NT runs here - the Giant's Causeway and Portstewart Strand. The Giant's Causeway is one of the most visited places in Northern Ireland - over a million in 2017.  There's the obligatory multi-million pound visitor's centre, which seems to me to have 4 functions: to take the entrance fee, to take more money in the visitors' shop, to take even more money in the coffee shop/restaurant and to provide a child's-like video 'experience' of the history and folklore of the place.  I went once, when we had friends over from The Netherlands. The video was a bit of an embarrassment, I thought - suitable for 5 year olds, maybe, but we learnt nothing.  From what I could see, there was nothing remotely informative about the formation of the stone formations.

The thing is, there is actually a public right of way to the Stones - so visitors don't actually need to buy a ticket at all.  But you would have a very hard time believing that from the signage the NT have erected around the site - all of which is, of course, designed to drive footfall to their visitor's centre and inviting people to pay the 'entrance' fee.  Eventually the NT did release a statement stating that it "respects people's rights to walk to the Causeway via the public right of way" but it had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do so.  And the Causeway isn't like a great big old country house with huge maintenance costs - no, it's my view that this is a great big old Cash Cow for the NT. 

And I can't mention the NT and the Causeway without a link to the story of how the NT forced a small souvenir shop which had been run by a local family for over 70 years to relocate - read it here.  This was the smallest little shop on the planet - what was the NT worried about, competition? 

Moving on to Portstewart Strand - a place I go to very often since it's just down the road from me.  The access road to the beach used to be owned by the local golf club but a few years ago the NT made them an offer they couldn't refuse and bought it.  You can walk onto the beach for free but since the nearest car park is some way away most people visiting the beach park up at the entrance - for which the NT charges a handsome amount (£6.50 last year).  Not too bad if you're there with the family for a whole day but if, like me, you're a local just there for a walk it's a bit steep - especially if you want to go there a few times in the week. If you get there before 9 in the morning then you can get on for free - otherwise you gotta pay.  In terms of maintenance of the beach (which was doing fine for the few thousand years before the NT got it's greedy paws on it) there is some, I will admit.  But a lot is done by volunteers and there really isn't a lot of work required - the odd digger required to help out in the dunes and move sand from one location to another, that's about it.  No, Portstewart Strand, like the Causeway, is a very nice little earner for the NT.

And now there's that whole thing about copyright of photographs taken on, or of, NT properties.  If you're making money by selling said photographs, keep your head down, as the National Trust will soon be after you - either for damages or to suggest in future you buy a licence from them.  And they almost certainly will have better lawyers than you...

Rant over. 

Runkerry Strand, above, is not owned by the National Trust.  I like it there, even if it is a bit of drive away...

Monday, 1 April 2019

Pilier Sud

La Tour Eiffel, of course.  From 1976, which means the OM-1 was involved.

South pillar, Eiffel Tower 1976
It looks like it was a bright sunny day, but Pilier Sud is in the shade. Everyone looks thin by today's standards and there's the odd giveaway to the era - the flowered shirt, big lapels etc.  And the stereotypical old French dude with beret and Gauloise.

I have a vague recollection of camping just outside Paris - with the parents and brother of course - since I was 13.  There was some hippy dude with a coach on the campsite and for a few quid he loaded it up and drove us and others into the city.  I remember we had to keep the curtains closed as he lacked the necessary paperwork and told us Les Gendarmes followed him from time to time to see if he was acting illegally - which he was, of course!  I don't think he got stopped the day he took us - I'm sure I would have remembered that.