Thursday, 8 April 2021

At the water's edge

 Last of three pinhole prints from last week's visit to Dunseverick:

Dunseverick, water's edge

I haven't been out this week with the camera yet - a combination of poor weather and Missy's impending A Level exams.  Oh, well, technically speaking they're not exams, they're 'school-based assessments'.  No, they're exams, and the school is making up for lost time by bombarding the students with them for the next 4 weeks.  Way too much, if you ask me (they didn't) but you have to deal with the system you got and so there we are.  As well as chief potato-peeler in the house I'm the official A Level Maths Tutor so it's been a busy time and is likely to stay busy for the next month.  Then everything stops for a few months until the results are released by the Exam Board in August.  It'll be a very long and nail-biting wait for everyone.

That was, in case you didn't recognise it, my way of telling the legions of readers this blog gets (that means you) that perhaps they should temper their expectations for the foreseeable.  I know, I know, expectations are already near rock bottom but there's always scope to lower the bar that little bit more...

Monday, 5 April 2021

Still there...

At Dunseverick, that is.  Only this time looking East towards Fair Head, Rathlin and Bonny Scotland (though the latter two seem to have disappeared in this shot...):

Same old: Pinhole shot, via 4x5 Fomapan 200 rated at 50, tray developed in ID-11 1:2 for 11 minutes and printed on Ilford'sMG Classic fibre paper.

The 'look' that I'm getting from these pinhole shots is quite different to my usual and I'm liking it.  Don't know if or how that might influence my work with normal cameras but I guess that's the exciting part of this journey.  Something I read (or most likely re-read) recently caused me to stop and think - usually no bad thing and something that I could be doing with a lot more.  This article about the great Harry Callahan appears on Erik Kim's site and is well worth 10 minutes of your time.  Mr Callahan, let's not forget, had a quite incredible 38 exhibitions at New York's MOMA.  If you want, you can edit out Mr Kim's thoughts  and just cut to the chase with the article itself (the middle bit) although since I'm about to write about HC (albeit briefly) perhaps that's a tad disingenuous.  

There's so much to like about the way Harry C thinks and writes about his photographic journey...his feelings of inadequacy in the presence of renowned photographers, the revelation he experiences when he first meets Ansel Adams' work - and just as interestingly his subsequent movement away from that.  But two things in particularly stand out for me - his view that sharing our own feelings is a valuable thing and that every day is a photographic adventure.  

Thursday, 1 April 2021


Just past the Causeway lies a rather spectacular little cove that goes by the name of Dunseverick.  Dun means fort, by the way - both in Irish and in Scots Gaelic.  Once upon a time Sobhairce's Fort lay at the end of one of the 5 great highways of Ireland, Sobhairce being a High King and therefore quite important.  We're talking some 1200 years BC, by the way - the highway ran from Dunseverick to Dublin.  Hard to believe now since Dunseverick is only a few houses while Dublin, well, is a tad bigger.  There's not much that remains of the Fort but the area itself is rather special -  I doubt you would ever get bored with the place.  On Tuesday if you turned towards the East there was a good view of Rathlin Island and Scotland beyond.  This is looking West towards the Causeway/Benbane Head, via the TiTAN pinhole and Fompan200:

Dunseverick, on MG Classic fibre paper

There was a lot more light around on Tuesday than would appear from this shot, in case you were wondering.  As a result, exposure was around the 2 second mark.  Somehow I managed to move the camera - or the wind blew it - so there's a nice drop shadow visible on the headland.  Anyway, it's a pinhole, so anything goes...

Monday, 29 March 2021

A Visit to the Temple

 It's been a couple of years (or more) since I made the trek to 'The Temple' but it rarely fails to disappoint and last Thursday was no exception.  We got lucky with the weather - it stayed dry and even managed a decent sky for HP5+ to capture.  Whatever you might think of 'The Earl Bishop' Lord Frederick Hervey back in the late 18th Century, you can't argue the man didn't have vision (and of course the moolah to turn his dreams into reality). Modelled on the Temple of Vesta in Rome, Mussenden Temple was built right on the cliff edge, in honour of his niece.  It was conceived as a library and apparently had a fire permanently lit in the basement which helped maintain a relatively moisture-free environment for the books - not an easy thing to achieve in this part of the world, particularly given the location.

Looking West, Mussenden Temple on a blowy day in March 2021.  Via the M6, 28mm lens, HP5+ on Ilford MG Classic fibre paper.  A deserted Downhill Beach just below, leading to Magilligan Strand and over to the hills of Donegal in the background.

From the other side it looked like this:

Looking East, past Castlerock towards Portstewart Strand and then to the headlands of Portrush and Benbane (Causeway territory).

I'm not a landscape photographer, as you can probably tell - although it's easy to see why so many photographers from this part of the world are.  I didn't really enjoy making these prints - the shots are too 'chocolate-boxy' for me...too much focus on the 'What' rather than the 'Why'.  Plus I was tired yesterday morning when I went into the darkroom (too much garden work outside on Saturday) and then I had to pre-flash the paper to get the sky looking half decent and the whole thing became a bit of a chore, which is not the object of the exercise.  I shall try to do better next time...

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Lobster Pots, Portballintrae

The old lobster pots are hard to pass by without clicking that shutter - they just look such interesting things.  This is kind of a boring shot, though...needs some side-lighting perhaps to make some interesting shadows.

Lobster pots, Portballintrae 2021. HP5+ on Ilford MG Classic fibre paper

It has taken me a long time to warm to Ilford's MG Classic paper but I'm getting there.  It can be a tad lifeless at times - or maybe that's just my negs.  The legendary Fred Picker is one of many who recommend One film, One developer, One paper and get to know them inside out - you can see him here, although be warned, it's 3 hours long.  He can (could, I guess would be more accurate as he's left us now) come across a tad stiff at times with regard to the mechanics of the whole shebang but overall I do like the way he speaks and the care he takes with his photography.  The takeaway is that by nailing down the technical aspects of photography you free yourself to concentrate all your efforts on the important things - the creative aspect, or as he rather succinctly puts it, Where to stand.  I think that's a decent strategy and the Zone system, or a version of it, is probably the easiest way to decide what to do with the highlights and the shadows in your scene.  Whether or not Mr Picker's photographs are ones you like is another question - again, to paraphrase the man, it's important to have the strength of your own conviction with regard to your work.  If you don't believe in it, how can you expect someone else to? 

There are plenty of opinions about Mr Picker on the Internet and while opinions on his work vary everyone who knew him personally speaks very highly of him as a teacher and as a person.  The first hour of the video is good for anyone interested in photography, the second hour is more on the Zone system and figuring out your own film-related Exposure Index and the last hour is about darkroom work.  I can see the sense in the One film One developer One paper approach.  Up until recently I've been using HP5+ for about 75% of my work and FP4+ for the other 25% (the exception being a recent foray into Fomapan 200 for the 4x5 pinhole camera).  I know how to make both the Ilford films work for me - HP5+ in ID-11 and FP4+ in RO9.  I can feel myself migrating to using FP4+ exclusively in 120 format and saving HP5+ for 35mm work (which I've been doing less of recently).  However, I do like having a variety of papers at my disposal.  When I start thinking about printing a negative I'll ask myself which paper will suit that subject and shot best?  Warmtone papers are rarely a bad choice; cooltone papers I find myself not using so much; neutral papers such as Ilford's MG Classic I've been using a lot of recently.  And then for something completely different there's lith (cold and warm papers) or something more specialised like Foma 133.  It's all good. 

Monday, 22 March 2021

Spuds and Coal

There's not too many of these wee independent shops around any more, due to the proliferation of supermarkets and franchises. Plus, I think, a lot of villages around the North Coast have an increasingly unhealthy percentage of second-home-owners, which means that they lie unoccupied for a large part of the year.  Anyway, Glass's is in Bushmills and as you can see, has sacks of potatoes on one side and bags of coal on t'other and sure what else would you need to keep you warm and fed?

Bushmills, 2021. Via the 'Blad, HP5+ and 60mm lens

I was sorely tempted by the spuds as I reckon they'd be a damn sight better than the ones the supermarkets flog to us.  I'd probably go for the smaller of the two sizes as we haven't a large family and it's really only the odd weekend we might have half a dozen around the table for Sunday lunch.  But we do like our spuds and we go through a surprising amount each week.

I love the awning on Glass's, which looks like it hasn't changed in a few decades.  Plus the fact they put their wares (or some of them at least) out front.  Good marketing that, for any passing trade there might be...even, I was going to say, the tourists as they drive through en route to the Distillery or the Causeway.   But then again, when I think about it, I doubt too many tourists would be after spuds or coal... 

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Portrush Rock

We have a lot of rock over here.  Heck at times I think Ireland is just one big rock, sitting as it does in the Atlantic.  It's not easy to get a decent photograph of the hard stuff - and I'm not saying I succeeded here, mind.  I've photographed a lot of rocks, but most times they come out a bit 'meh'.  This one was on the 'Blad/150mm lens on a walk around Ramore Head, Portrush last week.  Perhaps the only saving grace is that there's a bit of balance in the shot:

Portrush Rock, HP5+ on MG Classic paper.

That's the Skerries coming in from the left and the Causeway in the distance on the right.  The Skerries are a couple of small islands just off the coast and are a safe haven for lots of seabirds.  The Causeway, as you know, is part of the mainland, a few miles east from Portrush along the North Antrim coast road.