Monday, 21 June 2021

My Driver

To celebrate my daughter’s18th we actually booked a table at a restaurant - the first in a very long time. I was slightly nervous but it’s what Missy wanted and well, it was her day so who am I to argue.  We actually had a great evening. Tables were well spaced out with see-through partitions separating them. Plus the place felt airy and we were near the door so I soon relaxed. Even better, my future daughter-in-law (Clare - you remember, this Clare…with the shoes!) offered to drive. So I did the decent thing - accepted, and snapped her up en route:

My driver.  HP5+ in HC-110, on MGV deluxe paper.

I had my favourite point&shoot camera (Yashica T4, Zeiss Tessar 35mm f/3.5) loaded with HP5+.  My normal speed rating for HP5+ is 250iso, or even 200 and this works well for me in ID-11.  Trouble is, the Yashica has no means of manually setting the ISO - it takes the film speed from the DX-code pre-printed on the cassette.  So if I drop an HP5+ cassette into it, the Yashica will assume it's a 400 iso film and meter accordingly - which is not what I want.  However, since I bulk load all my 35mm film from 30m lengths it does mean I can fool the camera by loading HP5+ into 200iso DX-coded cassettes (like Kodacolor Gold 200).  I put a small colour-coded sticker on the cassette to tell me it's HP5+ inside and not anything else.  I'm fortunate to have a large stock of empty cassettes courtesy of my local high street film&print shop.  They still get a good number of colour films (and a few B&W) through their doors and every so often they give me a bag-full of the cassettes, so I've got cassettes with almost every imaginable DX code on them.  For most of my 35mm cameras it matters not what code is on the cassette - it's just a few of the more modern point and shoot type cameras that don't have the ability to set the film speed manually, and I don't use them very often, so it's not too big an issue.  I tend to reach for them when I'm out with family doing 'other things' rather than on a photographic expedition, when I'll take a proper camera :)

As you might remember I've had a few issues with ID-11 recently so this time around I used HC-110 at 1:31 dilution for 5 minutes.  In concentrate form HC-11 is gloopy stuff - it's liquid, but only just.   5 minutes seems indecently short compared to 13 minutes in ID-11 and with very short times there's always a risk of timing inconsistencies with regard to filling and emptying the tank.  Next time I might go for a more dilute solution and longer times.  The negs printed ok at grade 5 but were low in contrast - I prefer to be printing around grade 2 or 3, so next time I'll factor in a bit more development.  I should really get off my butt and do some proper testing with HC-110.  In fact, I might just do that today...

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Lockdown Life

Well it's been a long time coming but finally we have a photograph of the two felines that share their lives with us.  Not taken by me, I have to add, but by Missy.  For most of Spring 2021 her life revolved around revision for her exams - and she seemed to prefer to do a lot of that in bed.  Why not, eh?

Lockdown Life in 2021.  Foma 313 paper.

I'd given Miss a point-n-shoot Olympus AF-10 a while back, with HP5+ loaded.  It's a great wee camera and has true auto-focus, based on a centre-spot reading.  You can even lock the focus by half-pressing the shutter release if your main subject is off-centre.  Cool.  Everything else is auto-everything but the film came out great - it handled different lighting conditions pretty well.  There's a built in (auto) flash as well.

Anyway, the above scene is rather good, I think and captures perfectly Missy's life at that time.  This looks like a typical lunch - fish fingers&potato waffles, a fruit smoothie and some grapes.  There's probably malt vinegar (yuk) in the egg-cup.  Her Revision Chromebook is on her lap and she is being guarded by Minnie (left) and Maisie (right).  Minnie is a Tortoiseshell and Maisie a Tabby and they have very different personalities.  Minnie is (like all Tortoiseshells, apparently) a little aloof and independent.  Occasionally she'll let you know it's OK to lift her and stroke her but she's quite skittish - not usually that bothered about getting petted.  Note her eyes are fixed not on Missy but on her lunch - she grazes her food all day and is always ready for a snack so she's probably thinking Hey girl I could do with some of those fish fingers.  Maisie, the Tabby, on the other hand is just a wee soft kitty, very calm and affectionate - always ready for petting.  They complement each other nicely and chase each other round the house most mornings, playing tag.  

Monday, 14 June 2021

The Earl Bishop's gaff

Back at Downhill Demesne:

Downhill, in 2021.  Leica M6/28mm, HP5+ on Foma 313 paper.

This one needed a light burn-in in the sky.  For negatives like this I use an old bit of paper/card with a small hole torn in it and move it over the area required.  Torn rather than cut as you want the edges rough, not straight -  otherwise there's a chance they will be noticeable on the final print.  I didn't want the sky too dark otherwise it would detract from the house, rather just enough tone to hint there was something there.  You gotta keep that card moving though, to try and get an even coverage, otherwise you get bits that are too dark and bits that are too light.

That's Portstewart Strand way in the distance, by the way.  Yes, the old rascal enjoyed rather splendid views up on his cliff-top residence, he did.  The house went to ruin sometime in the middle of last Century, which was a great pity.  It would have made a wonderful museum, or art gallery, or even somewhere to hang my masterpieces.  Back in the late 18th Century it apparently held all sorts of objets d'art collected by the Earl Bishop Frederick Hervey himself on his Grand Tour across Europe.  Nice work if you can get it, I suppose...

Thursday, 10 June 2021


 Another 'Bond' girl for you today - this is 'E', relaxing outdoors at Missy's 18th party.  It was a very civilised affair and nice to be part of.  All her friends are, like her, finished with school and about to undergo a momentous change in their lives...University beckons!  There was a good cross-mix of subject areas - from English to Animal Science, Media/Arts & Pharmacy.  There was even one (who shall remain nameless but not too hard to figure out) holding offers for Midwifery, which is a very hard course to get onto in the UK, as the numbers are tightly capped by the government.  Now, however, at the 11th hour, she has decided that Zoology is what she really wants to study, so this last week has been a little fraught, emailing and ringing University Admissions teams asking about the possibility of changing course.  It's never straightforward in this house, no sir.

'E', at Missy's 18th.  Via the 'Blad & HP5+, on Foma 313 paper.

UCAS, the UK's University and College Admissions Service is an amazingly complex beast - the rules are many and the deadlines are real.  We are still anxiously waiting to see what, if anything, is doable.  Given that it's probably the worst year in recent history for applying to University in the UK things are very much up in the air.  Briefly, COVID-19 issues mean that final school leaving grades (which determine whether or not a University will accept a student onto a particular course) are not this year being administered centrally, but by the schools themselves.  There is an anticipation that this will mean grades will be inflated, so Universities have responded by drastically cutting the number of offers they make.  The whole thing is, I kid you not, a total nightmare for all concerned. 

So we're crossing fingers, toes and everything else that Missy's predicament can be resolved soon.  Failing that, she will have to wait until results day in August and then join the mad rush for whatever courses still have places.  Absolute worst case is that she takes a gap year and re-applies to start September 2022, but she would rather get on with it this year if at all possible.  It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, however, since she is pretty much the youngest student in her year.  Some of her friends will be turning 19 in a few weeks.  Aw...still so young, eh?!  Not sure I'd want to do it all again, given the choice, but I have great memories of my Uni days and am still in touch with many of the friends I made there, some 40 years later.  Good times. 

Monday, 7 June 2021

Pan F Plus

Two today for you, from that Ballintoy place.  Using a new-to-me film, Ilford's Pan F Plus, which I was rating at 25iso rather than the box speed (50).  It's a low speed high contrast film, super sharp with fine grain according to that crowd at Mobberley in Cheshire (Harman-Ilford).  I can certainly vouch for the fine grain bit - on a 6x6 neg it was really hard to see any, using my super-duper Peak focus finder.

Ballintoy, looking towards Benbane Head.  On Foma 313 RC paper.

These were both long exposures, using (if I remember correctly) the 150mm Sonnar with a big 10 stop filter.  Well, long-ish - about 8 seconds or so.  The filter is a pita, truth be told, as I have to compose and focus without it, then meter, calculate 10 stops under and then remember to attach the damn filter before locking the mirror up and triggering the shutter via cable release (assuming I remembered to order one online since I keep losing them...) while counting one-elephant, two-elephant or however you wish to estimate the seconds.  Anyway, here's t'other one:

More of the same

Like the print of S you saw the other day (here), the contrast could do with winding down a tad and some more of the detail in the rock formations would then be visible - there's plenty showing in the neg. The negs look great, incidentally - I think this is a film I could get to like. Ilford recommend developing Pan F as soon as possible after shooting it, by the way, or risk degradation of the image.

If you don't click on the images to see them full screen then just move along, nothing more to see here.

If, on the other hand, your curiosity has got the better of you, click 'em and zoom in.  I'll give you a few seconds to do that...

See the problem?  Lots of them, aren't there?  Looks like a minor snowstorm, those white dots all over the show.  Truth be told, I hadn't even noticed them on the prints, it was only after scanning them I saw them.  But they are there on the prints too.  Dust?  Nah, couldn't be that much dust on both negs, surely.  Dust on the enlarger lens possibly but I do blow front and back elements the odd time and I doubt it would all over the print like it is here.  Anyway I checked the negatives on a light box and yup, there are a lot of black spots just faintly visible with a loupe.  

I think it's a developer issue and even more annoying I seem to recall having a similar problem not so long ago.  I'm was using the last bottle of ID-11 stock from the 5l batch I made a couple of months ago and I think there has either been some settlement or some of the grains of the developer weren't fully dissolved.  Either way the whole film suffers from the black spots.  So I'm a little pee'd off that it's happened again. I think my love affair with ID-11 might be coming to an end.  Not ID-11 per se, more developers that come in powdered form.  Typically I've only just taken delivery of another 5l pack of the stuff but I might hold back making it up and just keep it on the shelf (in powder form) for now - along with a memo to filter the damn solution before use. What I do have on the shelf is a litre of Kodak HC-110 that I bought a while back and I think I'll experiment with that for a while.  It comes in liquid form - nice!  Dilution B is 1:31 so although a 1-litre bottle is about £40 it’s so heavily diluted that cost-wise HC-110 would actually work out a little cheaper than ID-11. And...without the hassle of making it up from powder (and more importantly, no more black spots on me negs).  Let's see what the results are like.  I'll have to run a few films through and do a little testing first but that's OK.  I shall report back via the usual channels (i.e., this place). 

Thursday, 3 June 2021


Well if Ian Fleming can give us M and Q, I can give you S, who came to Missy's 18th birthday party last week.  Others came too and you might catch a glimpse of them here too, in the days to come.  

S, via the Blad, HP5+ printed on Foma 313 RC paper.

The Epcot Centre thing in the background (which I'm sure y'all noticed there - right?) is a blow-up bouncy thing with music inside, which we hired for the night. It wasn't a success, as it was full of water and therefore unusable.  The folks who took our hard-eared ££ decided they aren't going to refund us, which is not very nice, so we're 'investigating options'.  I just don't like the fact they simply took our money in exchange for a service which they did not provide and then shrug and say, 'Tough'.  It doesn't sit well with me.  We'll see how that pans out.

But back to more important things.  This was the first print of a new paper for me, Foma 313, which is a cheap (ish) resin-coated paper.  I'm getting stingy in my old age and I've decided to pull back on using fibre paper for anything but masterpieces.  If I like the way it looks on RC paper then perhaps I'll print it on fibre, for the wall.  Again, we'll see how that pans out.  

This print is too harsh and contrasty for my liking.  I know the 'in' thing is to have punchy prints, with blacks as black can be and highlights paper-white but this print could have done with at least a half-grade less contrast, and maybe more.  Next time I'm printing I'll dial it back a bit and see what gives.  And another thing...the last while I've been printing on 7"x9.5" paper but this is 8"x10".  Not a lot in it, you would think, but by 'eck it is noticeable, I tell you.  Funny when I was printing 9.5"x12" and 11"x14" I thought 8"x10" was tiny.  Today it seemed big.  It's all relative, I guess.

Obviously I dragged myself into the darkroom to do this. We've had 3 solid days of 70+ temperatures and don’t laugh but it's all a bit too much for this Northern Irishman, truth be told.  Today was humid and horrible - weather my mother would call 'close'.  That's close as in 'not far', not close as in 'not open'.  I did potter about outside late morning but I gave up and retreated to the relative cool of the darkroom all afternoon.  The chemicals in their glass storage bottles were bang on 20 degrees, which was nice - although it took a while for the cold water to run cold enough to get down to that.  The cold feed to the darkroom comes through the loft, you see, which is like an oven at the minute, so the water lying in the pipes was coming out at about 25 degrees.  Weird.  I don't like it.  It feels...unnatural. 

Monday, 31 May 2021


 View from the harbour wall looking at the West Strand:

Portrush, Spring 2021.  On MGV paper.

The big building on the left is the Town Hall (with a new block of apartments beside it).  Towards the right there's the clock tower of the Railway Station and in front of that you've got Barry's Amusements, which has been there for 70-odd years and is famous all over Northern Ireland.  There's a big dipper thing just out of shot to the right.  It's the place we all went to once a year, when we had our pennies saved up for the machines and the bumper cars.  I hear it's up for sale - either for redevelopment or as a going concern.  I suspect whoever buys it will knock it down and put up a whole load of apartments, which will command stratospheric prices given their proximity to the beach and the water.  It'll be the end of an era if it goes, that's for sure.

And if you click on the image for full screen you'll probably be able to make out a Dominos Pizza shop.  They're everywhere these days and to my mind they make awful pizzas (though Missy disagrees).  Almost as bad as the big yellow and red M. 

I've lots of newer negatives queued up to print but it was a scorcher here yesterday (that means 70 degrees) and I just couldn't bring myself to go into the darkroom.  We sat outside and enjoyed the warm air - a rare treat in this part of the world.