Monday, 9 July 2018

A confession

I have a confession to make: I've had enough of Mr Blue Sky.  I'm longing for rain and clouds.  Well, maybe not the rain bit but the clouds, yes. I know in a few months I'll be regretting that statement but I find the current weather so unsuitable for the type of photography I like to do.  So I'm digging around in the negative files for something interesting to print:

Portstewart Strand, via the 'Blad.  Ilford Warmtone Fibre paper, 11"x14"

I'm also finding myself moving away from RC paper towards using fibre papers more.  Agreed there are some very nice RC emulsions out there - like Fotospeed VC Oyster, Adox MCP, Kentmere VC Select and Ilford Warmtone.  These all tone rather well and the short washing times are a real bonus - as is the cost compared to fibre paper.  But every time I use fibre paper - particularly the one used here, Ilford Warmtone - I find the prints are just so much nicer to look at. There's a depth, or subtlety to the tones that draws me in.

While we're at the confessions, there was a ton of spotting to be done on this print, which I haven't completed yet.  So I cleaned this one up using the power of software.

Monday, 2 July 2018

A wave of heat hits The Liberties

Yes folks it's official: there is a heatwave in Northern Ireland.  Not often I can write that, now, is it?  We've had the most clement weather since the start of May - temperatures reaching a heady 30 degrees the other day (86 degree Fahrenheit if you prefer) and very little rain.  As a result, we have a hosepipe ban in place - the first since 1995, apparently.  The upshot is that we're not allowed to use a hosepipe to water our gardens, clean our windows, wash our cars, or clean our boats (eh?).  Some rail services have been cancelled as the tracks are so hot they are in danger of buckling.  Things are, it would appear, rapidly descending into chaos.

The good people of The Liberties aren't used to this fierce heat - seriously, we're not.  We can (obviously) handle rain, wind and storms but heat? - no.  Tempers will flare.  There will be road rage and probably fights will break out over shopping trolleys.  We're in for a tough time until the weather breaks - which, I guess, will not be that far away...

Now the restrictions on water usage don't, surprisingly, make any mention of washing fibre prints in one's darkroom but it would be a tad irresponsible to do so at the minute.  So it might be RC prints for a while, I think.  Not that the darkroom is a particularly pleasant place to be in right now, mind you.  I did venture in the other day (just before the hosepipe ban came into effect) and the ambient temperature was well over the magic 20 degrees, so the chemicals were all a bit livelier than usual.  Still, I managed to get one print made - just to remind myself what clouds look like:

Sunset over Inishowen.  Ilford Warmtone Fibre paper, 11"x14"

Monday, 25 June 2018

More lines and shadows on lith

The other day you might have seen this same shot, of the stone steps leading up from the small beach by the Portrush Arcadia where Missy does her Pilates on a Monday evening.  The same Portrush Arcadia where I saw manys a band back in the day.  A few years ago the concert hall at the back of the building was demolished, but they kept the front, which was most surprising for this part of the world where preservation of old buildings would appear to be the exception, not the norm.  So, we have to be grateful for small mercies, don't we.

Anyway, here's another print from the same 6x6 negative.  Slightly closer crop, but still Foma paper in Moersch lith developer although this time two stops over-exposed under the enlarger, which as we all know means less contrasty...but a whole lot more colourful:

Untoned, in case you were wondering - the colour is solely due to the action of the lith developer on this particular paper.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Rocks in the sea

Just off the seaside town of Portrush lie a group of rocks in the sea (just visible on the horizon in the print below).  The Skerries.  A bit of research the other year indicates the name is derived from an old Norse work, meaning 'rock' or 'rock in the sea'.  Appropriate enough, it would appear.

Portrush, HP5 on the Hasselblad, Foma paper, lith

It was part of the lith printing session the other day - the usual 9.5"x12" Foma paper and some oldish Easylith developer.  I haven't played around that much with different lith formulae but when my solutions of Moersch Easylith are finished I've got some Fotospeed to try.  Usually I mix 20ml of solution A with 20ml of B and about a litre of water but you can vary the concentration of both A and B to have softer/harder tones or lower/higher contrast. 

This print ended up being particularly colourful, as you can see - appropriate enough as it was taken in the early evening in warm summer sunlight.  I'm thinking it might be worth dunking the print into some weak ferrycyanide bleach to lift the highlights a bit - but on the other hand I might just leave it alone.  Sometimes I find it pays to leave a print lying around for a while and eventually it either grows on me or I decide to do something different with it (before putting it on the wall, in a box or throwing it in the bin).

The one useful thing I do nowadays is put the negative number on the back of every print so it's easy enough to find it should I ever want to print it again. 

Monday, 18 June 2018

Just some lines and stuff

Another lith print from the walkabout in Portrush.  Early evening sun casting interesting shadows on the steps:

HP5 on the 'Blad, Foma paper, lith developer

Wednesday, 13 June 2018


We get an amazing array of cloud formations in this part of the world - not surprisingly, given the amount of precipitation we get.  Keeps Ireland green, I guess :)

Anyway, the other evening I was out in Portrush for a wee dander while Missy was at her Pilates Class.  It's pretty hard-core, otherwise I might have been tempted myself...but instead I wandered about the place, Hasselblad in hand.  Taking the air, as they say around these parts.

It was a lovely evening, peaceful and warm(ish).  The clouds caught my eye:

I stuck a deep red filter on the 50mm lens and pointed the camera skywards.  I'm in a lith mode at the minute, so out came the Foma paper and some by-now-pretty-old Moersch Easylith developer and away we went.  I think I made a mistake by trying to be too clever, though, since at first the clouds came out with a beautiful warm pinky tinge to them.  For some unknown reason I decided it wasn't enough so I dunked it into some cupric sulphate bleach and tried to sepia it.  All that happened, of course, was I lost the original pink colour.  On the plus side I think it accentuated the white of the clouds a little, so it wasn't a complete disaster.

I can feel a 'cloud' project coming on...

Monday, 4 June 2018

Glasgow glass, lith

You may recall we were in Glasgow a while back - something to do with Sam Smith, I seem to remember.  Anyway, we caught the 'Flyer' bus from the City Centre back to the Airport and I bagged myself a window seat, Nikon in hand ready for anything that caught my eye.  I snapped up this building with its reflective glass windows as we waited at traffic lights - through the none-too-clean coach window, I should add:

Glasgow building, lith print, 2018

I was keeping it for a lith day and that day was today.  It's not easy to convince oneself to get into the darkroom at the minute, for the weather in The Liberties is rather pleasant (for this part of the world, that means mid '70s - phew!) and little wind so it actually feels warm. But, in spite of that, sometimes you have to scratch the itch and so I had a very quick darkroom session early this morning.  Foma 131 paper and old-ish, warm-ish Moersch Easylith, followed by a short dunk in warm selenium 1:5 which just deepened the blacks without any significant colour shift.  A quick test print, for which I opened up the enlarger lens by 3 stops, as lith needs over-exposure at this stage.  Contrast was a bit low on the test print so I stopped down 1 and it all seemed to work out OK.